The lunchroom at Armuchee High was recently the site of an amazing thing for Kimberly King of the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia.
“We’ve had at least 75 teens come to us and sign the pledge and take selfies,” she said. “They are making the message trend.”
The message is about healthy relationships. King and several other center workers and volunteers spent the days before Valentine’s Day — a holiday celebrating love and relationships — visiting area high schools during lunch periods and asking students to define what a healthy relationship is.
Students wrote their own definitions on cards and posed for selfies they then posted to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with hashtags such as #loveissettingboundaries or #REALrelationshipgoals or #respectweek2016.
They also signed a banner with a pledge written by one of King’s safe dates classes she teaches at local high schools. The pledge reads “I pledge to not abuse my dating partner mentally, emotionally or physically. I pledge to help those in need, including my friends and family. I pledge to raise awareness about dating abuse and to dissuade others from abusing their dating partners. I pledge to model and exemplify healthy relationships to my peers and my community.”
They then received a pair of earbuds as a thank you and reminder.
“I want them to have the earbuds as a reminder to listen in, to pay attention to what they see happening to their friends and classmates,” King said. “This is also a way to thank them for being willing to talk about a subject that can be difficult for them.”
The selfie and pledge project are just a few ways of making teens aware, she said.
“February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month,” she said. “We chose to do this before Valentine’s weekend because it seemed like a good time.”
Carson Cook, Armuchee student and president of the Youth Action Team at the school, said the selfie project fits into her team’s mission as well.
“We are about raising awareness about things teens face,” she said. “This message is about setting boundaries and knowing you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”
Fatima Waseem, vice president, agreed.
“You hear about things happening at parties, then these high school rumors start,” she said. “It could all be prevented if people paid attention and thought about others. You hear lots of people laugh and say this is crazy, it will never happen to me or that none of this helps, but it does.”
As the students approached King’s table and filled out their cards, the definition of healthy relationships ranged from “Healthy dating is giving lots of love” to “Healthy dating is communicating, trusting, caring.”
Christa Gilmore, the coordinator for the Floyd Youth Action Teams and who works with the Sexual Assault Center, said she sees a lot of teens who can be confused about what a healthy relationship is.
“They know physical abuse is not right, they even can tell with emotional abuse more often than not,” Gilmore said. “The gray area is when someone in the relationship is really controlling. I most often see someone thinking their boyfriend constantly checking on them, calling constantly, not letting them see friends is just a sign that they care about them a lot. It’s not, it’s not healthy.”
Armuchee student Will Hubbard was one of the students who spent a portion of his lunchtime trying to explain what he thought of as healthy dating.
“You’ve got to communicate,” Hubbard said. “You shouldn’t always be arguing, and sometimes you have to know when to apologize or to keep your mouth shut.”
Hubbard’s classmate Tamalachi Lovelace added that he thinks trust is also important.
“Have fun and enjoy one another,” he said. “A lot of women seem to get mistreated. Men need to know that having a relationship with a woman is a wonderful thing and to appreciate it.”
Tae Allen agreed with both of his friends, he said. “Respect each other,” he added. “Guys, you can’t just put your hands on a woman. Think about how she feels.”