Teaching teens about right sort of love

By Lydia Anderson

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LOOKING FOR LOVE: A new ACC programme will promote healthy relationships among teens. Photo/File
LOOKING FOR LOVE: A new ACC programme will promote healthy relationships among teens. Photo/File

Teenagers often look for love in all the wrong places, so a programme teaching them about healthy relationships has got to be good, a Wanganui counsellor says.

ACC's new pilot, Mates & Dates, will teach secondary school students healthy relationship skills, as part of a three-year programme aimed at preventing sexual and dating violence.

And the West Auckland Roastbusters scandal, which involved teenage boys boasting online about having group sex with drunk, underage girls, had an effect on the programme being formulated "at pace".

Wanganui counsellor Neil Pedley said if teenagers were not getting their emotional needs met at home they often turned to drastic measures, such as having inappropriate sexual encounters.

"You wouldn't believe what's out there in the way of incidents that occur among young people, it still amazes me.

"The common factor is they're looking for love in all the wrong places."

The programme could be beneficial if it created awareness that it was OK to have needs as long as teenagers tried to meet them in a healthy way, he said.

ACC sexual violence prevention programme manager Sandra Dickson said although the Roastbusters scandal was not the reason Mates & Dates was developed, it did prompt the organisation to "move at pace" and prioritise a school-based programme.

"We were already aware of the lack of a best practice, multi-year, nationally available school-based programme to help to prevent sexual and dating violence," she said.

"Roastbusters and other recent high profile incidents reinforced the urgent need for that gap to be filled."

Students involved in the pilot programme would be taught how to have relationships based on respect, negotiation and consent. It would also help them to identify inappropriate behaviour and show them how to get help.

Secondary Principals' Association president Tom Parsons said there was no "one size fits all" programme to suit all schools.

However, if the programme was shown to work it could be worth rolling out nationally with adjustments made to suit each school's unique environment.

ACC Minister Judith Collins said the Mates & Dates pilot supported the Government's efforts to drive lasting change in young people's behaviours and attitudes by focusing on prevention.

"In 2012-13, ACC funded about $44 million for sensitive claims, all of which relate to sexual violence," she said.

Mates & Dates is based on research here and overseas that shows 15- to 24-year-olds are most at risk from violence by current and ex-partners. One in five female and one in 10 male secondary school students report unwanted sexual contact and, of these, 37 per cent describe the unwanted activity as severe, and 57 per cent tell no one.

The nine secondary schools involving 2000 students in the pilot study are: Dargaville High School, Kelston Girls' College, Kelston Boys' High School, Papakura High School, Makoura College, Naenae College, Nelson College, Nelson College for Girls and Otago Boys' High School.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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