As part of the Women’s Resource Centre’s (WRC) mandate of violence prevention in the community, the staff were looking for a youth program with a good reputation with the best practices and found Respectful Relationships.
This program has United Nations approval and is SD28 approved.
“It’s designed to be delivered by an outside of government agency,” Debbie Scallion, registered therapeutic counsellor said.
“These agencies have the skill set and experience to deliver the program in the schools. Besides, teachers already have a lot on their plate and this program doesn’t come with funding.”
Which meant the WRC had to drum up funding for Respectful Relationships if they were going to implement it in the local junior secondary school and Correlieu secondary school.
“We were willing to find the funding to deliver this high-calibre program,” Scallion said.
“We found funding through the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Quesnel Community Foundation and the provincial government.”
With funding in place, Scallion established 12, one-hour programs in Grades 7 – 10 classes.
“We also have a youth team that meet once a week at WRC and they focus on leadership, self-awareness, social activism and facilitation skills. They will join us in the classroom as co-facilitators alongside the adult facilitators,” Scallion said.
The anti-violence program’s mandate is to teach youth the skills to develop healthy relationships, such as boundary setting, how to build a healthy relationship – what that looks like as opposed to an unhealthy relationship and the difference between the two.
It also looked at media bias and how marketing works.
“We focus on dating relationships primarily,” Scallion added.
In the Grade 7 program, they deal with bullying and friendships; beginning of dating; communication; I statements and boundaries.
The Grade 8 program goes further into dating relationships; gender identify; stereotypes such as the reinforcing of the strong male and the
ultra feminine female
and dissecting that concept.
For Grade 9 students, there’s more about dating, racism and homophobia and how that damages their ability to form lasting, respectful relationships.
In the final Grade 10 student population, the program delves into more details regarding abuse, relationships and the balance of power as opposed to equality.
“The over-arching focus in Respectful Relationships programming is to create tolerance and acceptance in all relations at all ages,” Scallion said.
“All these skills are fundamental to healthy relationships and our ability to form those lasting relationships.
“Most of us don’t learn these skills until well into adulthood, some never, making mistakes all along the way.
“These mistakes can and will cause damage and some people struggle all their lives to right the wrongs.
Their self-esteem and identity can also be damaged and it takes a lifetime to deal with it.”
Respectful Relationships was created by the Salt Spring Women Opposing Violence and Abuse (SWOVA) to teach youth healthy relationships skills.
It has been delivered to thousands of youth in Canada since 1999 with annual updating of the content to remain cutting edge in this field and a facilitator training program (mandatory
for delivery of the program.)
Scallion, who is both co-ordinator and one of the program facilitators, emphasized how the program content builds grade on grade and by the time students are
in Grade 10 they are starting to independently develop respectful relationships.
“We will see all the SD28 Grade 7 – 10 students in the course of the school year and each student fills out a pre- and post-program evaluation,” Scallion said.
“We also hired an outside evaluator to continuously evaluate the program.
“As well, we meet with school administration, principals, teachers
and counsellors to
ensure a respectful relationship.”
Respectful Relationships has the support of SD28, QJS and CSS principals and the local MLA.
“Without their support we wouldn’t be able to offer this program to the students and in turn benefit our community,” Scallion said.