On February 18, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Health and Human Services’ Domestic Violence Program held a Teen Dating Violence Awareness assembly, led by Vurlene Notsinneh-Bowekaty, Community health educator in domestic violence. The assembly was held in the lecture hall at Salt River High School.
Close to 30 ninth-graders sat for the 40-minute presentation that discussed dating-related violence around Indian Country.
Notsinneh-Bowekaty asked the youth why they think the Community focuses on younger people to spread awareness about dating violence. She said the reason is because there is an alarmingly high rate of Native American woman ages 12 to 18 who are victims of teen dating violence. Many have died.
Notsinneh-Bowekaty explained that the goal is to teach youth the warning signs of an abusive relationship and how to get out. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast theme fit the presentation, explaining how Belle saw the good in the Beast despite how controlling and demanding he was.
Notsinneh-Bowekaty went over the characteristics of healthy relationships: respect, thoughts and feelings, acknowledging individuals, listening, and being truthful. She also discussed the cycle of abuse and its impact on both females and males.
A question was asked of the students: “What does love mean to you? What does that mean as a teen?” One student answered, “to have affection for one another.” Notsinneh-Bowekaty then went on to ask what it means to be truly in love versus to be simply infatuated with somebody.
“Always remember that sex does not always equal love at your age,” shared Notsinneh-Bowekaty. “I have seen in many communities where the girl gets pregnant and the guy disappears; she has to attend her [medical] appointments alone because there was no real love there. I share this because my office is located next to the WIC office, and I see all the young people who come in. Many of them are students I once had in my program, and it makes me sad to see that.”
An activity and ice-breakers focused on violence. For one, students were asked to write, as fast as they could, “I have the right to be in a healthy relationship.” They had to write it 10 times on a piece of paper. Another activity had to do with how fast they could send a text; the purpose was to illustrate how many times someone can text an individual—more than 30 times during a single class time—and how texting can become harassment and turn into abuse.
Near the end of the assembly, students heard stories on teen dating violence and how other high school students have been affected. The youth also were told about several programs within the Community that can help with domestic violence.
For the month of February, everyone in the tribal government was asked to help spread awareness of teen dating violence by wearing orange.
For more information on violence in relationships, contact the Domestic Violence Program at (480) 362-2706.