SUTHERLANDS RIVER – There’s no age limit on when dating violence can occur.
Megan Humber writes down types of violence that can be experienced in relationships. Humber and other Grade 9 students were participating in a safe dating workshop at East Pictou Middle School on Wednesday. From left are Humber, Macayla O’Brien, Brianna Roberts and Gracie MacIvor. AMANDA JESS – THE NEWS
That’s why Stephanie Duggan, children and youth counsellor with Tearmann House, was giving a healthy relationship workshop during anti-bullying day at East Pictou Middle School on Wednesday.
“Because it’s happening,” Duggan said about why she’d want to start the conversation with younger youth.
She noted when she does in-school work like this, there’s usually a student who reacts strongly to it, reinforcing the importance of talking about it.
Duggan also does follow-up work in schools for students who might be in unhealthy relationships.
Duggan’s presentation came after Tearmann House received $2,000 in funding from the Pictou Mutual Fund for prevention work in schools.
The presentation looked at all types of dating.
“Violence happens in any relationship,” Duggan said, adding that they discussed a possible situation where a girl controls a boy, as well as same-sex relationships.
Students broke into groups and analyzed a letter describing a relationship between students.
“They discussed what can be done and how they can support those students,” she said, elaborating that the students pointed out different places people can turn, such as the Pictou County Help Line.
Although they talked about physical violence, they also looked at cyber abuse through Snapchat, Facebook, and texting, to name a few.
Grades 7 through 9 heard presentations from various groups throughout the day, including the RCMP and the Pictou County Centre for Sexual Health.
The day of workshops has been happening for more than five years.
Organizer and guidance counsellor Sharon Quinlan said she sometimes gets asked, “Is this necessary to keep doing each year?”
“You can never educate staff and students enough,” she said.
Quinlan has been planning the event since before Christmas, and has been heavily involved in it for the past five years.
It usually goes well, and this year was no exception.
They often have up to 15 presenters.
“I can’t pull it off without the support of students and staff,” she said, adding that everyone is always happy to help out and offer input.
Quinlan said one presentation in particular that students are excited about is one from the RCMP examining cyberbullying.
Const. Bryce Haight, she said, ‘creeps’ the students on Facebook for weeks before, and shows the group what he was able to find on their public profiles, showing them the dangers of not protecting their own privacy.
Quinlan said the students always ask for the Youth Project, a non-profit Halifax-based organization providing support to youth for issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, to return.
She notes Duggan is always over-accommodating as well, offering outreach afterwards.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to refer students and families to other resources.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda