Steubenville rape trial: Where were 'courageous bystanders'? (+video)
The Steubenville rape trial has highlighted the widespread problem of students not intervening to stop dating and sexual violence among peers. But awareness is growing.
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Teaching through plays and poetry
In one of Expect Respect’s programs, separate groups of boys and girls meet with a licensed counselor during the school day if they have experienced dating violence or witnessed it at home. Having a supportive peer group reduced violence among the most vulnerable students, Ms. Rosenbluth says, citing a preliminary study.Skip to next paragraph
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A decade ago, Expect Respect also began asking student groups around the city to develop projects to educate peers about dating violence. Each year, a citywide theater group writes a new play about healthy relationships.
“We were able to really see a shift of making it cool to be standing up for healthy relationships,” because of students delivering the message through everything from poetry to hip-hop performances, Rosenbluth says.
For example, a group of students trained to educate peers about bullying and teen dating violence at Austin’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy high school noticed recently that one of their members had a black eye. They immediately asked her if it happened in a relationship. It was actually the result of a rugby accident, she told them, but they were the only people in school who expressed concern about it.
These students “get the message that it is their business and it’s OK to check in when they see someone sad or hurt, [rather than just] worry or gossip,” says Randy Randolph, Expect Respect’s prevention manager.
[Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly identified Mr. Randolph.]
Austin has changed its policies, too. In 2004, it adopted measures targeting relationship abuse among students. One provision allows a victim to request that an abuser be made to keep his or her distance during the school day – sort of a school version of a restraining order. Before that, “the victim had no rights or way to complain” if the abuser was not caught in the act and disciplined by school administrators, Rosenbluth says.
The policy became a model for a state law in Texas, which in 2007 became one of the first states to require or urge schools to include teen dating violence prevention in the curriculum. Now 15 states have such laws, according to the group Futures Without Violence in San Francisco.
In Massachusetts, the parents of Lauren Astley are urging more prevention efforts to honor the memory of their daughter – murdered by her former high school boyfriend several weeks after their graduation from Wayland High School in 2011.
They started a foundation and are hoping that Massachusetts legislators will consider requiring schools to offer 10 to 20 lessons on healthy relationships for each grade level in middle and high schools.
Society needs to better “equip all young people to face the terrible pain of breaking up,” says Malcolm Astley, Lauren’s father. Nathaniel Fujita was sentenced to life in prison for premeditated murder after Lauren broke off their relationship.