Lessons help keep students SHARP

Students at Wiesbaden High School have been taking part in a series of discussions about dating violence, healthy communication and boundary setting, online safety, sexual harassment and sexual assault delivered by the garrison Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention team.

Bill Mottley and Deborah Wagner talk with the teens about things like texting, expressing feelings, avoiding conflict escalation and messages in the media as part of the Youth Violence Prevention Curriculum. The curriculum, developed over 17 years by Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, incorporates the latest principles of prevention as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program is geared toward schools, churches, after-school programs and other community institutions, with the goal of eliminating the culture of violence.

During a recent lesson on prevention of sexual harassment and stalking, students were asked to differentiate between harassment and flirting. During the discussion, many participants acknowledged that some behaviors could be classified into either category, but the factor that determined which category it belonged in depended on the perception and often the consent of the person on the receiving end.

Then, the group watched a video about a girl and boy who met at school. What started out as a friendship or flirting, quickly crossed the line into stalking behavior. The challenge for the students was to determine when that line was crossed, what happened and then what a person could do if they found themselves in that type of situation. Courses of action included confronting the offender directly, if safe to do so; creating a log of troubling behaviors; telling a teacher, parent or law enforcement; and getting away from the stalker.

The instructors acknowledged that what seems like acceptable behavior to one person may not be to another.

“As one person describes that behavior, it could be flirting,” Mottley said. “As another person describes it, it could be harassment.” The important thing to note is whether the behavior is welcomed, as unwelcomed behavior that is sexual in nature would constitute sexual harassment.

Anyone who witnesses something that doesn’t seem quite right is encouraged to intervene or report it, Wagner said. Not taking action against bad behavior is, in a sense, saying that it is acceptable.

Kyleigh Outlaw, who attended the lesson, said the discussions have been educational for her, especially when the class took a critical look at societal and media portrayals of girls and young women.

Ivan Friel, also a participant in the class, said he has listened to new perspectives since taking part in the discussions.