In one of Expect Respect’s programs, separate groups of boys and girls meet with a licensed counselor during the school day if they have experienced dating violence or witnessed it at home. Having a supportive peer group reduced violence among the most vulnerable students, Ms. Rosenbluth says, citing a preliminary study.
A decade ago, Expect Respect also began asking student groups around the city to develop projects to educate peers about dating violence. Each year, a citywide theater group writes a new play about healthy relationships.
“We were able to really see a shift of making it cool to be standing up for healthy relationships,” because of students delivering the message through everything from poetry to hip-hop performances, Rosenbluth says.
For example, a group of students trained to educate peers about bullying and teen dating violence at Austin’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy high school noticed recently that one of their members had a black eye. They immediately asked her if it happened in a relationship. It was actually the result of a rugby accident, she told them, but they were the only people in school who expressed concern about it.
These students “get the message that it is their business and it’s OK to check in when they see someone sad or hurt, [rather than just] worry or gossip,” says Randy Randolph, Expect Respect’s prevention manager.
[Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly identified Mr. Randolph.]