Since April is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I reflected on the ways that one Girls Inc. program in particular helps to prevent domestic violence. Our Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy® program for the 12-14 age group, Will Power/Won’t Power, is known for providing girls with valuable information about how their reproductive organs work and helping guide them toward healthy choices, but another important component is teaching girls about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
During one Will Power/Won’t Power session that I facilitated, when I asked the girls whether they would rather be single, or in a relationship that was physically abusive, I was surprised that a few girls said they’d rather be in the abusive relationship than be alone. Seeing this as a prime opportunity for a teachable moment, I asked some of the other girls why they would rather be alone than in an abusive relationship. They had many positive responses, all along the same theme:
- “Nobody should treat you badly. If they do, you should leave.”
- “It’s way better to be alone than with somebody who hits you.”
- “I don’t deserve to be treated like that. If somebody hits me then I won’t be with them anymore.”
This also highlights an important element of our programming: the dialogue between the girls themselves. I decided to let the other girls in the room explain their reasons for wanting to steer clear of abusive relationships to the girls who said they’d rather be in an abusive relationship than alone. Sometimes their peers’ words can be more effective than a facilitator simply telling the girls her/his own thoughts.
By the end of the session, I hope that all of the girls in the room had realized that they deserve to be treated well, and that sometimes it’s okay to be alone, even if it’s hard.