These Southwestern Heights students were part of a group which presented a Safe Dates program to the Community Response Committee last week. CRC is comprised of members from various crisis-response agencies in Liberal, meets every month to review data on domestic violence and sexual assault cases in the community and problem-solve by combining resources. L&T photo/Rachel Coleman
LARC-DVS program ‘makes a difference’
By RACHEL COLEMAN
• Leader & Times
The Community Response Committee, comprised of members from various crisis-response agencies in Liberal, meets every month to review data on domestic violence and sexual assault cases in the community and problem-solve by combining resources. At its most recent meeting, however, the tables were turned.
Teens who have taken part in the Safe Dates program at Southwestern Heights High School presented a program to the CRC members. They shared stories of crises averted and violence avoided — and high praise for Sadie Madden, who presents community education programs for the Liberal Area Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Service. The committee responded with enthusiasm.
“Aren’t these kids great?” said CRC chair Jack Cooley, “and isn’t Sadie great? I wish we could clone her.”
The students, along with SWH Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Kristin Gleason, brought Power Point and personal speaking presentations. In all, seven high school students spoke, sharing what they have learned and how they apply it in real life situations.
“One of my best friends always used to show up at my house with bruises,” said one teen, who requested her name not be published in order to preserve her friend’s identity. “Her boyfriend had anger problems.” Using information and techniques presented by Madden, the student “tried to help my friend understand this was a problem, and it would only get worse.” A year later, the girl is out of the relationship, and her friend is relieved.
“I would have felt so useless as a friend if she’d still been with that person,” she said.
Gleason said Madden’s visits, scheduled on a monthly basis, have made a tremendous difference in attitudes. The Safe Dates program has sparked conversations and growth, even among students who are not enrolled in Gleason’s classes.
“The kids know when she’s coming, and they really look forward to seeing her and talking,” she said. “Kids stop by my classroom and want to ask her questions, even if they’re not in FACS. Sadie has really made a difference.”
Madden had high praise for the students as well.
“They have really improved their dating relationships, and their ability to realize when something isn’t right,” she said. The benefits haven’t gone unnoticed: “The school board there is 100 percent on board with this program. We’re very happy to be working in that district.”
Gleason noted that because of the small size of the student body, the Safe Dates program has effectively touched every student at Southwestern Heights High School.
“I only have about half the students in the classes I teach, but everyone benefits,” she said. “Word gets around.”
Madden presents Safe Dates programs and monthly follow-up sessions at public schools around the area, including Ulysses and, in the past, Satanta and Sublette.
“We’d love to bring the program to Liberal, but so far that hasn’t worked out with USD 480,” noted Cooley. Though USD 480 offers similar information through its FACS classes, the size of the district means that not all members of the LHS student body are exposed to the information Safe Dates presents.
“We’re still hoping,” Cooley said. “It can make a life-or-death difference for those kids.”