Laurel Center steps up program for dating abuse prevention

Additional plans for dating violence youth advocacy council

WINCHESTER, Va. - The Laurel Center in Winchester, which helps victims of domestic violence, is working on introducing curriculum to local schools and youth advocacy groups that is aimed at preventing dating abuse.

"Statistics show that one in three girls [in the U.S.] are victims of physical, verbal or emotional abuse from a dating partner, and it is a lot more prevalent than people think," said Adriana Myers, sexual assault prevention specialist at the Laurel Center.

That statistic, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, is something the Laurel Center is hoping to turn around locally, with a bigger emphasis on prevention amongst boys and girls at the middle and high school level.

"We want to stop the abuse before it even happens, rather than intervening after the case," Myers said.

That's why the social services organization is in the midst of trying to get the word out to schools and youth advocacy groups about Safe Dates curriculum.

"We definitely go over the red flags for dating relationships - things that might signify you're in an unhealthy relationship or that your friend might be. One of the big ones is excessive jealousy," said Katie Moffitt, sexual assault prevention coordinator at the Laurel Center.

The Safe Dates program is free and is divided into ten sessions. The organization said it plans to create a dating violence youth advocacy council to compliment the program.

"Find out what they really need, conduct a teen needs assessment and actually be able to speak to stakeholders and people in politics here in the area, and figure out what we can do to help," Moffitt said.

The Laurel Center officials said their prevention efforts are all made possible through a rape prevention education grant from the Virginia Department of Health.

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