Original article appeared in the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance’s “Resonance” e-newlsetter

Officials in Giles County are observing the 4th Annual Dating Violence Awareness Month and Healthy Relationships Weeks in February. The Giles Youth Adult Partnership (GYAP) and the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley (WRC) prepare throughout the year for the month’s activities. The Giles Board of Supervisors and the county’s independent towns have also proclaimed February 2015 as Dating Violence Awareness Month. Fence ribbons and a banner announcement are being displayed on the Giles County Courthouse lawn in Pearisburg as part of this observance.

Each year, GYAP and the WRC spearheads Healthy Relationships Week at both Giles and Narrows High Schools with activities focused on respect. Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) are provided for use during daily school announcements, while free activities are offered each day during lunch that are designed to encourage students to consider the importance of mutual respect and equality in relationships. Students who participate are eligible for incentives consisting of prizes that have been donated. Teachers who have been the most influential in promoting this message have also been recognized and awarded gift cards to local restaurants.

This year’s activities include:

Monday: Random Acts of Kindness. Students will be asked to draw or write something on a cotton sheet to depict acts of kindness and respect that individual students can do at school. Once it is completed, the sheet will be displayed in the lobby area for all students, staff and guests to view.

Tuesday: Respectful Relationships, featuring Poncho the therapy dog. Poncho helps engage students in discussing the concept of how our treatment of others often directly affects their actions toward us. Students will be asked to “rank” 12 healthy characteristics or traits found in healthy, safe relationships. Students who want to compete for prizes may write a short paragraph or create a small graphic describing what is important to them in a relationship.

Wednesday: Vote for the Most Influential Teacher: Students will have an opportunity to vote on the teacher they admire most in their school, based on qualities that include: being respectful, honest, trustworthy, compassionate, empathetic, helpful, supportive and fair. Each vote cast includes the reason the student has identified a particular teacher as being the most influential in the school.

Thursday: “Healthy Relationships Don’t Happen by Magic” and Stop Dating Violence pledge/raffle: All participants signing the pledge to not use violence in their relationships will receive a pledge card; and raffle winners will receive prizes. Bobby Lilly (Giles County Commonwealth Attorney) will remind students that healthy relationships take effort by performing acts of magic.

Friday: Hit the Target – Show Respect: This gym-based activity of cornhole will offer students the opportunity to compete for prizes while demonstrating good sportsmanship and respect. Evaluations of the week’s activities will be completed by students on this final day.

The goal of Healthy Relationships Week (HRW) is to prevent violence and promote healthy, safe relationships. Last year’s evaluation outcomes are as follows:

  1. 87 % said the information/activities helped them know what makes a relationship healthy
  2. 85 % said if they saw signs of an unhealthy relationship in a friend’s relationship they would say something to that friend
  3. 79 % said that they feel HRW had an impact on their school community.

These activities support the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley’s Prevention Education Multi-session Program, Peaceline. This educational program is offered to 25 middle and high schools in five localities: Giles, Floyd, Montgomery, and Floyd counties, as well as the City of Radford.  Healthy Relationships Week continues the educational process of building healthy and safe relationships based on Equality, Respect, Communication, Honesty, and Trust.

The Giles Youth Adult Partnership is facilitated by NRVCS.

For more information about the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley, please visit www.wrcnrv.org. To learn more about the Giles County Youth Adult Partnership, contact Rene Cox