Teachers, we are here for you. In our commitment to providing consistent prevention education to Upper Valley youth, we have created a series of activities for your students to do from home. These virtual lessons are abbreviated and intended only to provide a basic introduction to the subject matter. The activities cannot replace our comprehensive education that we provide in person. We look forward to seeing you back in the classroom next fall!
Grades 1-2 WISE feelings
Grade 7 Introduction to consent
Grade 8 WISE and SVAM
High School Introduction to gender-based violence; Introduction to domestic violence; Introduction to gender stereotypes; Introduction to sexual violence; Introduction to consent; Sex, gender, and gender stereotypes
Parents, we know that you are managing a lot during these extraordinary times. WISE educators have put together activities and videos for elementary aged children to do from home. You can also access and utilize the lessons above! At home activities; Hugs; How to make a rain stick
Prevention & Education Program
We can end violence. The Prevention and Education Program (PEP) works with students, educators, and the community to end gender-based violence. PEP provides training in trauma-informed support for professionals, best practice for businesses and facilitates relevant workshops for your everyday life. PEP also provides training and screening tools to law enforcement, health care providers, social service agencies and other responders and systems.
WISE educators are trained facilitators in many of the nationally recognized and emerging prevention curricula– for example: Care for Kids child sexual assault prevention for young children, Safe-T for middle school youth, Mentors in Violence Prevention for sports teams and groups, WholeSomeBodies on healthy sexuality for adult role models, and Cut It Out for salons. All our programs are developed from the best research in violence prevention and best practices for education and are tailored to fit the unique needs of our Upper Valley Community.
It is important that WISE materials are available throughout the community for victims and survivors to access in safe ways and for everyone to learn more about ending violence. Call 603-448-5922 or email and request materials for your business, healthcare facility, school, or organization.
Figuring out relationships can be tricky. You deserve to know what healthy, safe and respectful relationships look like. With information and resources, you can learn the warning signs, explore what you want and need in a relationship, and access resources.
WISE advocates are available to support you every hour, every day. Call our crisis line or chat with us online for support. Please keep in mind that our advocates are mandated reporters and are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. To maintain anonymity, consider leaving out details like your age.
What are the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship?
The two warning signs, or red flags, of an abusive relationship are jealousy and put downs. Put downs are when a person makes fun of their partners, tries to humiliate them, and makes them feel insecure. Jealousy can sometimes be disguised as mistrust, being overly protective, or just really in love. Someone abusive might demand to know what their partner is doing, who they are hanging out with, and what they are wearing. Jealousy is used as a way to control behavior and have power by making their partner’s life smaller.
The teen power and control wheel depicts the most common behaviors in an abusive relationship. Notice that power and control are at the center of the wheel because the abusive person uses the tactics to gain power and control over their partner.
Does your partner:
disrespect or embarrass you in public?
disrespect you in private, so other people only see their good side?
get mad at you for spending time with friends or family or anytime separate?
monitor your phone, emails, Instagram or Facebook?
prevent you from working, sleeping, studying or taking care of yourself?
borrow money and not pay you back?
insist that “this is just what relationships are like” or that your friends and family are trying to ruin your relationship?
pressure you to have sex, hook up, drink, do drugs or other illegal behaviors?
threaten to share your private information or spread rumors about you?
blame you for their behaviors or for the problems in the relationship?
threaten to hurt one or both of you?
Take time to figure out who you want to be and what you want from a relationship. While compromise happens often in relationships, you should not be put into a position where you are asked to compromise fundamental parts of yourself, your comfort levels, or your values. If it feels like you are being asked to compromise yourself, or that the compromises are not equal, the person may be more interested in controlling you than being with you.
If you are thinking about sex…
If you are considering having sex, you can think about what is and what is not okay with you. You can do this on your own using the checklist about sexual activities. You can also review the checklist with your partner to build good communication. If you are feeling pressured to have sex by your partner, your partner may be demonstrating that sex is more important than you as a person – that is a big red flag! If your friends are pressuring you to have sex or you are feeling pressured because you think everyone else is doing it, going through the Sexual Readiness page may help you sort out your comfort level. You can also consider talking to a trusted adult who probably went through something similar when they were your age.
It is okay and normal to not know what you want. It is okay to want to try different things. It is okay if there are things you know you do not want to try. A loving and healthy partner will take things slow, stop and check in with you, let you decide what you like, and not push you to do things that you do not want to do.
Options and support for minors
If you are noticing any of these behaviors in your or a friend’s relationship, you do not have to go through this alone. If you or someone you know were assaulted or are being stalked we are here for you.
WISE has 30+ trained advocates to support you every hour, every day. Call our crisis line for immediate support or chat with us online. You can also ask a teacher or guidance counselor to have a WISE advocate meet with you at school. We will let you take the lead and will not tell you what to do. We are here to listen and provide support in the ways that make sense to you.
Safety plans are a way to think and plan around how to be safe in situations that could be dangerous. Love is Respect has a personalized plan that you can use to think about what you might need to be safe. WISE advocates can help you brainstorm ways to increase safety. Call us or chat with us online.
Legal Protection: A WISE advocate can help you figure out what legal protections are available to you. Remember, WISE advocates are mandated reporters.
New Hampshire: You can apply for a Domestic Violation Petition as long as you have an invested adult with you. The adult can be anyone who knows and cares about you.
Vermont: You must have an adult apply for a Relief From Abuse order on your behalf. Read the Teen Guide to RFAs for more information.
There are a lot of websites about dating violence and sexual assault, some are more helpful and accurate than others. We have listed a few online resources that we think are worth your time. If you need something more specific or know of a resource that everyone should check out, send us an email or call us.
Websites and articles
- Check list
- Sexual Readiness
- Sex Ed for the world
- The BEST advice column ever
- Reciprocity, Reloaded
- What Are The Different Types of Dating Abuse
- Understanding the Power and Control Wheel
- Why Do People Stay In Abusive Relationships
- What is Sexual Violence? Fact Sheet
- “The Justice System Runs On Testimonial, ‘He-Said She-Said’ Evidence”
- Quickies: Sexual Consent Basics
- How I Stopped Listening to Emotional Abuse (Scarleteen)
- Navigating the Aftermath of Abuse in a Social Circle (Captain Awkward)
- Pressure to Send Nudes (Teen Vogue)
- I Think He Might Be Using Me (Scarleteen)
- He’s Pressuring Me, How Do I Tell Him (Scarleteen)Man to Man: On Sex, Masculinity, and Being Yourself
- Sex, Gender, and Gender Stereotypes
- How to Support a Friend Who’s Been Sexually Assaulted
- If A Robbery Report Was Treated Like A Rape Report
- The Sexy Lie
- Violence Against Women, it’s a men’s issue
- Teen Dating Violence 60 second PSA
- Abduction as Romance
- Stalking for Love
- Sexual Assault of Men Played for Laughs
- Toxic Masculinity In Boys Is Fueling An Epidemic Of Loneliness
- Trans 101
- A Compassionate, Empathy-Based Approach to Consent
- Tea Consent
- Cycling Through Consent
- Pizza Metaphor
- Know My Name, Chanel Miller
- Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
- Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
- Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll
- Audrie and Daisy
- Miss Representation
- The Mask You Live In
- The Hunting Ground
- Surviving R Kelly
As parents, grandparents, and people who interact with young people, you play a huge role in setting the values and social norms for your kids and their friends. From the profound moments of parenthood to everyday conversations, you have opportunities to raise young people free from violence. You can counter the harmful messages they receive with positive skills and strengths to create a value system and environment to end gender-based violence. Together, we can create a more peaceful world.
“As a parent of five children, ages 10-21, I can’t emphasis enough how much I appreciate the educational opportunities that WISE provides our community. I’ve attended many WISE events, including Parent’s Night, and I always walk away learning something new. The staff are warm and approachable in their delivery of research-based information regarding the sexual and emotional development and health of our youth. It’s nice to have a place to listen, ask questions, and walk away with skills on how to address what can be challenging topics with our kids. Community forums allow all of us to participate in a way that keeps all of our children safe, in a proactive way, hopefully preventing incidents before they occur, definitely making us aware of what to be on the lookout for and how to help our children in a gentle and respectful manner.” – Ann DiLalla, Hanover Parent
Helping elementary school children develop safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationships
When it comes to prevention, our mantra is “early and often.” Our prevention curriculum starts in Kindergarten, but it is never too early to establish a strong foundation for healthy and safe human interactions. Program content for students in Kindergarten through 5th grade reinforces the age appropriate messages known to increase protective factors and decrease risk factors for violence. We hope that the information we provide helps support you in your conversations with the young people in your life.
Asking for help
Young people need to know that there are adults in their lives who they can reach out to for help and support, and who will protect and care for them. The existence of strong and supportive relationships with adults other than their parents has been identified as an asset for developing healthy, caring, and responsible young people.
Take-home sheets are sent home with students at the end of our prevention lessons at school. They are meant to inform caregivers of the lesson content and to provide support for reinforcing the messages at home.
- Kindergarten, Asking for Help Take-home sheet
- 3rd Grade, Trusted Adults Take-home Sheet
- 4th Grade, Asking for Help/Jake’s Story Take-home sheet
Everyone deserves information about how their body works and what their body needs to be safe and healthy. Having accurate terminology for all body parts reduces a child’s likelihood of victimization as they are more self-aware, able to communicate what their bodies need, and have the proper words if they need to ask for help (Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, 2016). It is helpful to distinguish between public and private body parts. Public body parts can be visible in public places and private body parts are kept covered in public places. Adults and older children do not need help cleaning their bodies. If there is an adult or teenager who has an injury or disability an adult would help them, not a kid.
Our bodies give us information all of the time about how we are feeling, what we like, what we do not like, and when something does not feel quite right. Paying attention to the messages our bodies give us is important for safety. This helps us cope with our emotions in healthy and productive ways. Listening to our bodies encourages us to ask for help when we are confused and helps us to notice our internal radar telling us that we might be unsafe. Identifying and defining our needs sets us up for a lifetime of healthy relationships with others and most importantly, with ourselves.
- Kindergarten, Bodies Take-home Sheet
- 1st Grade, Bodies Take-home Sheet
- 2nd Grade, Bodies Take-home Sheet
- 5th Grade, Body Sense Take-home Sheet
Feelings and coping
We have so many feelings. They change often, they vary from the feelings of others, we express them differently, and sometimes they catch us off guard. When we learn how to describe and identify our feelings we are able to access our individual coping strategies and ask for help if we need it. Learning to connect our emotions with physical sensations is an essential skill for emotional regulation.
It is not okay for us – or anyone else – to use our feelings as an excuse to hurt others. When problems arise, we can access the coping strategies we have brainstormed and practiced which helps us respond to conflict in ways that are productive and minimize the potential for harm.
- 1st Grade, Feelings Take-home sheet
- 3rd Grade, Feelings Take-home sheet
- 4th Grade, Friendship Bugs Take-home sheet
Asking for permission
Consent is something we do throughout our whole lives. Setting the expectation of asking for permission instills the positive, pro-social behavior from the very beginning. In elementary schools, we talk a lot about asking for permission – we always ask other people for permission before we touch them and we should expect that others will always ask us for permission.
We can model consent when we interact with the children in our lives. When talking with younger kids, it is helpful to focus on the reasons for touching (wiping, washing, medical attention, ensuring safety) (Hindman, 1993) with an emphasis on the person’s comfort level who is being touched. “I need to hold your hand to cross the street to help keep you safe.” When there are times that you have to touch your child, and they do not want you to, explain the reasoning and try to give as much choice as possible. For example, “You need help cleaning your bottom after going to the bathroom. Would you rather have me or your [other caretaker] do it for you?”
We can also model asking not to be touched and remind children to ask before they touch others. Helping children notice how pets show whether they want to be touched or left alone can provide other opportunities for teaching consent.
In our culture, greetings and goodbyes are often accompanied by some kind of physical touch. You can help children navigate this by giving them a choice in how they say hello and goodbye to others. You might say, “Grammie is here, how would you like to say hello?” or you might ask “how would you like to say good night to everyone?” It can be helpful to offer suggestions such as hugs, waves, high-fives, shaking hands, kisses, or blowing kisses.
It is important that children know that touches should never be secrets. Keeping secrets is often a tactic that abusers use to keep children quiet about their abuse. You can help them brainstorm adults who they can ask for help if they feel uncomfortable about a touch or if someone is touching them without permission. Kids should know that they can always say no to touches that they do not want, and that there are people they can talk to if someone does not listen to them or if a touch makes them feel uncomfortable. Practicing letting children say no to touches with trusted people (friends and family) builds their skills and capacity to ask for help if they are ever abused. When children are sexually abused, the abuse that they experience may not physically hurt. Kids often describe feeling mixed-up, confused, or scared. In our lessons we talk with kids about who the adults are in their life who they could ask for help when needed.
Throughout our programming, we emphasize the importance of recognizing our inner most thoughts and feelings. By 5th grade, we introduce the concept of gender stereotypes and how they limit our ability to live up to our potential, live life to the fullest, and be the most authentic version of ourselves. Adults are critical in creating the space and opportunity for children to become their whole selves. The expectations we set for children matter, and society sends a lot of harmful messages to children about gender. We can create a community where people can express themselves and interact with other people in a multitude of healthy ways, regardless of their gender. This not only supports their individual growth and development, but also encourages empathy for their fellow classmates, and disrupts the norms that are connected to violence later in life.
- Allow children to dress in clothes that are functional, appropriate, and feel comfortable. You can have conversations about what types of clothing are appropriate for certain settings, without reinforcing gender norms. For example, “when we go to school we make sure our private body parts and tummies are covered” or “when we dress for a special occasion and need to look extra nice we might wear a dress, a shirt with a collar, or nice pants without any rips or stains.” We can teach them about appropriate dress without reinforcing gender stereotypes. You can have similar conversations about haircuts and hair styles. We can help children make choices that support being healthy, manageable, and hygienic, while being conscious about how gender might influence these decisions.
- Support children in engaging in hobbies that reflect their interests. Strict gender norms hold young people back and set them up for a lifetime of limitations.
- Counteract the harmful messages in the media that reinforce gendered expectations. Ask questions about what you are seeing as girl or boy things in their friend group or media circles, and remind children that anyone might like a particular color/toy/game.
- Encourage children to have a healthy relationship with their emotions and expression, such as giving space for children to cry, be nurturing, energetic, smart, artistic, etc., regardless of their sex or gender.
- Try to offer alternatives to the gendered expectations that are so common in the toys they play with, which sections they are allowed to shop, games they play, and media they consume.
Websites and articles:
- Safe secure kids
- Talk Early, Talk Often
- Stages of Healthy Sexual Development
- Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21
- Teaching Consent Without Sex
- Explaining Consent in a Kid Friendly Way
- 5 Ways We Ignore Children’s Agency That Perpetuate Rape Culture
- A Safer Family, A Safer World
- Kimochis – So Much Love
- Cinderella Ate My Daughter
Books for you to read:
- Mayday: Asking for Help in Times of Need by Nora Laver
- Ourselves and Our Children: A Book By and For Parents by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
- Keeping the Peace: Practicing Cooperation & Conflict Resolution with Preschoolers by Suzanne Wichert
Books for you to read together:
- It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr
- The Color Monster by Anna Llenas
- On Monday When It Rained by Cheryl Kachenmeister
- Hands Off Harry by Rosemary Wells
- It’s So Amazing! by Robie Harris & Michael Emberley
- More, More, More by Vera B. Williams
- What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan
- The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz
- I Loved You Before You Were Born by Anne Bowen
- It’s Not the Stork by Robie Harris
- Miles is the Boss of His Body by Abbie Schiller
- Uncle Willy’s Tickles by Marci Aboff
- Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle
- The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
- A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
- For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George
Helping middle schoolers develop safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationships
Middle School is rife with pressure – fitting in, navigating friendships, and experimenting with the kind of people we want to be – adding to the background of social expectations and media that tell us we are not doing it quite right. Friendships and dating relationships are a primary focus at this time of life, and learning how to navigate them can be tricky. We work with middle school students to explore how they want and deserve to be treated in all their relationships and how they can promote violence-free school communities.
The pressure to fulfill gendered stereotypes – and how to break free – is a key focus of our work with middle school students. An adherence to traditional gender norms is a significant risk factor for dating and sexual violence (Zurbriggen, 2010 & The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). We can help young people build a critical analysis of stereotypes about gender by making it a part of everyday conversations:
- Talk to them about the pressures they experience and find out what is actually important to them.
- Praise them for the qualities, behaviors, and achievements that make you proud, regardless of their association with a particular gender.
- Notice when hobbies from childhood fall by the wayside, especially when they are replaced with more stereotypical gendered behavior. It is normal for changes to take place during these years, but middle school students tell us that they stop doing things they love when they realize it is not the way to fit in.
- Point out language and media that seem to box in boys and girls. Ask questions if you notice that friend groups tend to be single-sex, and encourage children and their friends to share interests and activities outside gendered norms.
- Pay close attention to how they and their friends talk about gender and the opposite sex. This can be a great time to practice and reinforce respectful and equitable language.
- Avoid segregating chores or family tasks by sex or gender roles. It is useful for all young people to learn how to do the dishes, take out the trash, and shovel snow. You and the other adults in your home can have a profound impact on your children if you model this as well.
- We send the 6th Grade Program, Take-home sheet home after students have completed WISE programming. It provides an overview of the lessons and we hope it sparks a conversation.
It is developmentally appropriate for young people to start exploring crushes and dating relationships in middle school. Asking for permission to be in someone’s physical space is the bare minimum requirement when it comes to relationships. To foster healthy relationships, consent includes showing care and understanding for others. We talk with middle school students about asking proactive questions, paying attention to body language, and making sure everyone is free to say what they want. Our motto is “consent is not confusing.” If you are ever confused or unsure about how someone is feeling or what they want to do, that means you do not have their consent.
We often hear from 7th graders that the idea of getting consent feels like it would be super awkward. You can validate young people’s concerns, as likely most things in their middle school relationships are a little awkward. Dating relationships are very new and navigating them will likely result in a few awkward moments. However, thinking about whether or not we are comfortable enough to have these conversations with the person who we are dating is a good way to measure whether or not we are comfortable enough to actually do the thing that we would be talking about. We deserve to have relationships with the people we feel comfortable sharing those awkward moments. The consequences of not getting consent are significantly more awkward and potentially incredibly harmful, than the process of getting consent. Getting consent becomes less awkward with practice!
Some conversation starters:
- How do you make sure someone knows that it is okay to say no to you if they do not want to kiss/hold hands/other?
- Are you comfortable communicating how you feel to this person? Do they respond in supportive ways? Does it ever seem like they think your feelings are silly? How do you make sure they can tell you how they’re really feeling?
- Do they listen to what you want and do not want? Do they ever try to convince you to try things you are not ready for or do not like?
- What would happen if you did not get consent, and just tried to kiss someone?
- What would you do if someone says yes but you can tell by their tone of voice or body language that they are not into it?
- Why might someone say yes even if they are not 100% sure? Aside from you, what else could make someone feel pressure to do things they are not ready for?
- We send the 7th Grade Program, Take-home sheet home after students have completed WISE programming. It provides an overview of the lessons and we hope it sparks a conversation.
We get lots of messages about what our dating relationships are supposed to look like – mostly based in stereotypes rather than real life. Stereotypes make it easy for us to take on certain roles within relationships, whether or not they work for us as individuals. We work with 8th grade students to reflect on the stereotypes we have learned about relationships (friendships and dating) and think critically about the harm stereotypes cause. You can brainstorm with your middle schooler ways to reinforce the qualities and characteristics which they value in relationships (regardless of a person’s gender), as well as strategies for supporting friends who are in unsafe relationships. Having such conversations now will establish a norm around you talking about relationships together, which will be of great benefit in the years to come.
Some conversation starters:
- What does “dating” mean to you? What words do you use to describe romantic relationships? What does it mean when people in your school say they are dating?
- What do you like about or imagine are the good parts of dating someone?
- What qualities do you look for or find attractive? How do you decide to date someone or not? How do you let someone know that you like them?
- What are examples (from real life or media) of dating relationships that you really like? What do you like about them?
- What do dating relationships look like among your friends?
- What do you like and or dislike about your friends’ relationships?
- Do you ever see relationships where it seems like one person gets to make more decisions? What do think you about that? What gives a person more power in a relationship?
- Do you ever see relationships where one person is way older than the other? What have you noticed about those relationships? Why might someone date a person who was so much less power?
- Do you feel like boys and girls have certain roles in relationships? Are they expected to behave differently?
- Are there expectations around who gets to date each other? Do people feel pressure to only date within certain groups?
- Who are adults you can talk to about dating relationships?
- We send the 8th Grade Program, Take-home sheet home after students have completed WISE programming. It provides an overview of the lessons and we hope it sparks a conversation.
Supporting friends and being helpful
We are all responsible for creating a world where everyone is safe. We can start to do it by looking out for each other and looking for ways to be helpful when someone is hurt. This is a common theme throughout our prevention work. If we see or think that someone is being hurt, is uncomfortable, or is having a hard time, we can always do something to help. When we stay silent and do nothing we are communicating that we are okay with the hurtful things that happen. It sends the wrong message to the person who is hurt, the person who causes the harm, and everyone who witnesses the harm.
Helping can look like lots of things and depends on the situation, relationship, personality, and who is available to ask for support. There is not a one size fits all approach to how you act. It might be that you simply approach the hurt person and check in to let them know that what happened to them was not okay. The only thing that matters is that we find a way to let it be known that the behavior is not okay.
Some conversation starters:
- How do you know when a situation is not okay? What do you see that makes you uncomfortable at your school?
- What have you done when you see something happening that is not okay? What makes it hard to speak up when you know something is not right?
- How do you decide what to do to intervene? What are the things you think about to make sure you are safe and the situation does not get worse? Who are the people you can ask to help you intervene?
- What are some ways we can let our friends know we care about how others treat them? How can we support people who are not our friends but are being treated badly?
Websites and articles
- Driver’s Ed for Sexual Super-Highway: Navigating Consent
- When You Don’t Like Their Partner
- Challenging Gender Stereotypes in the Early Years
Helping high schoolers develop safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationships
WISE engages teenagers in understanding the cultural and historical context of gender-based violence. Students learn the dynamics and realities of domestic and sexual violence, and the opportunities that exist every day to make our communities safer for everyone. Students think critically about aspects of our culture that normalize gender-based violence, make violence seem inevitable, or minimize the impacts of experiencing dating or sexual abuse. We can all help the young people in our lives notice and understand that each of us can determine the kind of community where we all can thrive.
Gendered expectations are reinforced – subtly and overtly – in nearly every aspect of our lives. We are made to believe that there are only two types of people, and that we must conform to one of the two. People who do not appear to follow gendered expectations experience higher rates of bullying, harassment, and violence. Research shows that violence is also a tactic used against people when they are not conforming to these expectations: men and boys who appear weak, women and girls who are not accommodating, and people who are LGBT and therefore living outside of the either/or expectation. Communities with a strong adherence to traditional gendered roles have increased levels of gender-based violence (Zurbriggen, 2010 & The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Communities that eliminate gender stereotypes also eliminate gender-based violence.
We can all help young people establish a value system that de-emphasizes gender stereotypes.
- Notice statements that generalize boys and girls or make assumptions about people based on their gender and point them out.
- Encourage young people to do things that make them happy, regardless of the gender the activity may be associated with.
- Have conversations about the impact and meaning of specific gender stereotypes. Why do we put so much emphasis on girls’ physical appearance? How does that impact girls? What do boys have to do to show that they are tough enough? Are you ever afraid of what would happen if you looked weak to your friends?
- Have conversations about the differences in power based on gender. Who has power? What gives someone power? What does it mean if you have more or less power in a relationship or in society?
In a study of teens who had been in an abusive dating relationship, less than one-third (32%) had confided in a parent about their abusive relationship (Liz Claiborne, Family Violence Prevention Fund). The same study found that the reason the conversations were not happening, or that the conversations were unproductive was because both the teens and their parents reported feeling “extremely uncomfortable talking to each other about the most serious aspects of dating abuse.” These conversations can be more comfortable by having them more often. When conversations are ongoing, informal, and include time spent talking about the good things in their relationships, it is easier to talk about the harder stuff. It is much more difficult to jump into a conversation about abuse when there has not been an established rapport, normalizing such conversation.
The two biggest warning signs of an abusive relationship are jealousy and put downs. These behaviors can start showing up early in the relationship. Jealousy in particular can sometimes feel good at first, like the person really cares about the relationship. It can be masked as love, a lack of trust, or as if others are trying to ruin their relationship.
The put downs, or insults, may be subtle at first. They may only come out during arguments, or brushed off as teasing. No matter what is happening in a relationship, there is no healthy reason to name call or make one person feel bad about themselves.
Abusive behaviors trickle in slowly, which can make it look like individual incidents and not a pattern of abuse. Having an open dialogue with teens about their relationships is important for their development of safe and healthy relationships. You want to be someone who they can go to with questions about their relationships. If you are worried about their relationships, be careful not to make them feel like you are judging their choice of partner. Instead, point out the behaviors that are concerning, be curious about what they think of the relationship, and model healthy ways to be in relationships. If you are concerned that they may be unkind or careless to their partner, point out the behaviors and reinforce the values that make them kind and respectful partners. Remind them that it is okay to end a relationship that does not work for them.
The teen power and control wheel depicts the most common behaviors in an abusive relationship. Notice that power and control are at the center of the wheel because the abusive person uses the tactics to gain power and control over their partner.
Some conversation starters:
- What do you like about your crush? What are the great parts of your relationship?
- How does it make you feel when they do ______?
- What are the things you worry about in your relationship? How do you talk about your concerns with your partner?
- Do you ever notice that there are expectations or assumptions about your relationship that you did not agree to? Where did they come from? How do you talk about them with your partner?
- What do your friends/peers think about your relationship? What are the trends at school about dating? How do you feel about them?
When we think about sexual violence, we often think about the violent attacks we see in movies and television. Popular TV shows and movies often depict sexual violence as a stranger lurking in the shadows, ready to attack. While some people are assaulted by strangers, this does not reflect the reality of sexual assault. Rape culture perpetuates misinformation about sexual violence, creating barriers to both preventing and responding to acts of violence. When high school students learn the reality of sexual violence, they can cultivate effective opportunities for intervention and shifting norms amongst peer groups. You can make sure your teenager has accurate information about sexual violence.
- 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 20 boys will be sexually abused or assaulted before they turn 17 (Finkelhor, Shattuck, Turner, Hamby, 2014).
- 1 in 4 college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime (Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006). This rate has remained steady since studies in the 1980s (Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewki, 1987).
- 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the US have been raped at some time in their lives (CDC, SV Facts at a Glance, 2012).
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in the US experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime (CDC, NIPSVS, 2010-2012).
- 22.0% Black women, 18.8% White non-Hispanic women, 14.6% Hispanic women, 10% Asian/Pacific Islander women, and 33.5% women identifying as multiracial (non-Hispanic) report being raped in their lifetime (CDC, NIPSVS, 2010-2012).
- 47% of people who are transgender have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime (U.S. Transgender Survey, 2015). People who are transgender and bisexual women experience the highest rates of sexual violence overall (CDC, NISVS, 2011).
- American Indian and Alaska Native women experience sexual assault at a rate 2.5 times higher than women in general, and are most likely to be assaulted by a non-native perpetrator (DOJ, American Indians and Crime, 2004).
- For male victims, 52.4% are raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger (CDC, NIPSVS, 2010-2012).
- For female rape survivors, 98.1% of the time a male was the perpetrator. For male rape survivors, 93% of the time, a male was the perpetrator (Black, Basile, Breiding, Smith, Walters, & Merrick, 2011).
- 91.9% of female victims of rape were a partner or acquaintance of the perpetrator (CDC, NIPSVS 2011).
- Sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, with 60% left unreported (U.S. Department of Justice, 2008-2012). Between 2-8% of sexual assault reports are false (NSVRC, 2009).
- 6% of college aged men commit sexual assault. Of those, 3% are repeat offenders (Lisak).
Some conversation starters:
- Are there different expectations for boys and girls around sex and dating? What is the impact of those expectations?
- Have you ever seen or experienced sexual harassment at school? What does it look like when it happens? What does it mean when people think it’s okay to embarrass or intimidate someone for our own fun or pleasure?
- Why do you think people are so quick to discredit people who report being sexually assaulted, or not believe them?
- Why do you think sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes?
As we say in the younger grades, asking for permission to be in someone else’s physical space is the bare minimum when it comes to relationships. When we talk with teenagers about consent, we focus on four principals; choice, active, on-going, and equal power.
CHOICE: It might seem obvious, but we have to actually ask and talk with our partner. Consent cannot be implied. We need to have an ongoing conversation to figure out what we all want. In order for our partner’s yes to be a real, they have to know that it is okay to say no. If they are feeling pressured to say yes, are afraid of negative consequences from saying no, or are tricked into saying yes, they are not giving consent because they do not actually want to hook up.
ACTIVE: Active consent means that the person is actually acting or behaving like they want to hook up. They have said yes, and also seem really into it. Paying attention to our partner’s body language shows that we care about them, and we do not want them to say yes just because they feel pressured or afraid to say no. We only hook up with people who want to hook up with us too.
PROCESS: Consent it not a contract. We should always pay attention to our partner, because we know that sometimes people change their minds. Just because someone said yes to us before, does not mean they are going to say yes again. Just like sometimes we want to drink tea, and sometimes we are not in the mood.
POWER: There are some people who have more power than others. Sometimes we can work to minimize the impacts of power imbalance, for example when someone has more money or popularity. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the person with more power to make sure consent is active and ongoing and that they are not using their power to pressure the other person into saying yes. Other times there is no way to equalize power, for example in boss/employee or adult/minor relationships. The power that a boss has over an employee does not allow for the employee to make a genuine decision because there are too many potential negative consequences to saying no, or even positive consequences for saying yes. Therefore, it is not possible for someone to consent.
Some conversation starters:
- How do you find out if your partner is into it?
- Do you feel comfortable telling your partner how you feel?
- How do you make sure your partner does not feel pressured?
- What could go wrong if we do not get consent? What might happen if we assume someone’s consent based on their actions or the situation?
- The Sexy Lie
- When Teen Dating Turns Dangerous
- Getting Through a Breakup Without Actually Breaking
- Sex and Ethics
- When You Don’t Like Their Partner
- Sex needs a new metaphor
- Who Are You
- Girls and Sex, by Peggy Orenstein
- Boys and Sex, by Peggy Orenstein
- Age of First Exposure to Pornography Shapes Men’s Attitudes Towards Women
Parenting for prevention
Parents often ask us for advice about a variety of subjects. With this in mind, we created the Parenting for prevention series to offer guidance and things to consider for parents and caregivers. If you have a question or would like us to offer our thoughts about other topics, email and let us know!
For over 20 years, WISE has been working with students and schools to prevent violence before it impacts young lives. Our goal is to permeate students, educators, and the community with skills for healthy and fulfilling relationships. WISE’s K-12 program content is drawn from nationally-recognized violence prevention curricula, tailored to meet the specific needs and climate of individual schools, and stays relevant through our participation in national, state and regional professional work. We work with schools to expand the environmental support for students with programming in PE, Health, Guidance, English, Social Studies, Family and Consumer Sciences, History, and more. Contact us to learn more about how we can integrate these life lessons into your curriculum. All WISE educators are certified crisis advocates in Vermont and New Hampshire and are able to provide on-site support. We are also mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect.
WISE’s Elementary School Program builds on lessons from year to year to develop protective skills, empathy, and safety. These programs have been highlighted in The Atlantic, BrainChild Magazine, and Jezebel.
For a more comprehensive overview of our program content, please see Helping elementary school children develop safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationships in the Parents section.
“It seems to me, that you can’t ever break up with yourself. So you have to know and love yourself the best!” —Fifth grader
WISE’s Middle School curriculum engages students in age appropriate conversations around sexual harassment, consent, media and relationships. The program provides positive information and tools before students are saturated with less helpful messages.
For a more comprehensive overview of our program content, please see Helping middle schoolers develop safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationships in the Parents section.
“All of the information that was given and shown was extremely helpful, and I wish I had known all of this before high school because it is so useful.” – 9th grade student
Students who participate in the High School Programming are significantly more likely to recognize warning signs of abusive behavior, intervene in risky situations, and access local resources for help.
For a more comprehensive overview of our program content, please see Helping high schoolers develop safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationships in the Parents section.
“We had so much fun in class. Everyone laughed at funny comments and they gave us a clear description of love.” – 2014 student
WISE provides professional development and consultation for education professionals in accordance with state standards, including Vermont’s Act 1: An Act Relating to Improving Vermont’s Sexual Assault Response. WISE professional development training in dating/domestic violence, sexual violence, prevention, and school climate, imbue every educator with a sense of responsibility and capability to promote healthy social environments for students to learn.
Gender-based violence ends when the whole community is engaged in this mission. We do not have to witness or experience sexual or dating violence to do something about it. We can change the norms in our culture and make it safer for everyone. There are little and big things we can each do every day. We believe that it is all of our responsibility to end domestic and sexual violence. There are three annual training sessions to become a WISE volunteer. We facilitate training relevant to specific groups and professions.
WISE is a member of the DHMC Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
DHMC has hosted a number of Nursing Grand Rounds on the issues of domestic and sexual violence for medical providers:
Law enforcement and prosecutors
WISE has hosted a series of training sessions for Law Enforcement, investigators and prosecutors to build successful domestic and sexual violence cases. Abby Tassel is a trainer on Lethality Assessment Protocols for first responders, and specializes in research on primary aggression.
The relationship between a salon professional and client is often long term and intimate. For someone being abused, this relationship may be the only relationship unsupervised by the abuser. Salon professionals also have close up access to women’s bodies (scalp, face, neck, etc.) when others may not be able to see wounds or bruises.
WISE is a facilitator of Cut It Out, a program designed specifically for salons to help identify and respond to victims of violence.
Welcome to WISE Words!
In our mission to end gender-based violence, we created an educational awareness campaign to further prevention messages and strategies to Upper Valley youth and the adults in their lives. We work in nine Upper Valley school districts to provide a strong classroom curriculum using the best practices and emerging research for violence prevention. The radio segments mirror our high school curriculum to reinforce classroom messages and give adults access to information that promotes conversation.
The goal of our Youth Prevention Program is to prevent gender-based violence, bolster protective factors, and increase prevention techniques across the community. Our strategies reflect the Socioecological Model: connecting the individual, relationship, community and societal factors that influence real and lasting change. WISE Words segments aim to inspire listeners to realize connections in their own lives and our greater culture. Together we can foster communities that are safe, happy and fulfilling.
M-F 7:20am & 5:30pm
The River (93.9)
M-F 7:25am & 5:10pm
99 Rock (99.3)
T-F 7:55 am
We hope you will find our segments engaging, relevant and thought-provoking. As always, we appreciate your feedback and suggestions. If you have comments or ideas for future WISE Words please send us an email!
Intro to WISE Words – we all deserve to be safe: Jacob, Windsor High School, 2016
To learn more, we invite you to listen to all our :60 radio segments shared below:
What is Rape Culture?
Rape culture describes all of the little and big ways our society makes sexual violence seem normal, inevitable, or not that big of a deal. It includes jokes about sexual assault, excuses made for rapists, myths about the reality of sexual assault, and gender stereotypes.
Sexual and dating violence is really common. Yet, if we were to survey people and ask whether they support rape and abuse, most would say no. Rape culture accounts for this disconnect. The individuals who use violence do not live in a vacuum. They make their choices based on the world they live in, what they think is normal and what they think they can get away with.
In our high school program, we demonstrate the breadth and impact of rape culture through an activity called the spectrum of harm. We ask students to categorize all the unseen examples of rape culture common in our world. When we take a step back, we see a pyramid. There are a lot of things at the bottom that are not recognized as being harmful. These norms and behaviors at the bottom lay a foundation for, or give permission to, the more recognized and extreme acts of violence towards the top of the pyramid. The pyramid shows us all the ways that society values some people over other people and makes it seem excusable to use violence against them. We see this when women are blamed for rape or disbelieved, when people defend abusers and rapists by saying they are “actually good people,” or when music, television shows, and movies we watch make abuse seem romantic or sexual violence seem glamorous or funny. Rape culture is what distracts us with questions such as “why does she stay/wear that/go there” rather than focusing on the person and culture that is causing harm.
Rape culture creates an environment that normalizes violence against populations who are considered “less than” such as women, trans people, LGBQ people, people of color, particularly black women, people with disabilities, and more. When people use violence, the behaviors are excused because they fit in with our cultural norms about who should have power, who is credible, and who can use violence. Rape culture often makes us doubt our gut instinct that something is wrong. By taking down rape culture, we make abusive behavior very obvious. We remove the camouflage that covers abusive behaviors and allows abusers to get away with it.
Rape culture is all around us, which means every day we have an opportunity to create change. When we think about being an active bystander and intervening around sexual violence, the everyday subtleties of rape culture are where we can have a positive impact on the world. Hopefully, we will not witness a rape or sexual assault. But it is highly likely that we will hear jokes that normalize rape, see companies that use women as objects to sell their products, or witness a guy being made fun of for not hooking up with enough girls. Focus on the bottom of the pyramid, and we watch rape culture crumble. We can pay attention to where we spend our money. We can choose different songs to listen to and different movies to watch. We can challenge gender stereotypes. We can believe survivors. What we say and do makes a difference, and we can all play our part in ending rape culture.