Abusive relationships between males and females can begin forming as young as the age of 14. Unfavorable outcomes — to put it lightly — can occur, especially as young people start experimenting with alcohol and/or drugs.
One Georgia State University professor and her team are taking matters into their own hands.
Dr. Laura Salazar, associate professor at GSU’s Institute of Public Health, is in the process of creating a web-based intervention programs for teens that educates them on dealing with unhealthy relationships they may see with their friends and acquaintances.
Salazar (who lives in Inman Park) and her partner on the project, Linda Bair of Linda Bair Productions, have received phase-one funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the project and they are currently in the preliminary stages of developing the prototype.
The end goal is a two-hour educational web-based program that teens can do at a computer. They will see serial dramas featuring teens in various situations, be given options for what to do in the situations, and see endings based on their decisions.
For example, they would see a female who was inebriated at a house party and a male trying to maneuver her into the bedroom. The teen would be given options to do nothing or to intervene and see what happens in each case. The program would also offer instruction on how to intervene properly and for females, things they can do to reduce their risk.
“It’s about bystander engagement,” Salazar said.
“Researchers have realized that it’s a small percentage of men who perpetrate violence with women, but the rest of them can be bystanders. They should be taught a safe way to intervene so that men that do engage in violent behavior can be stopped.”
The project is also designed to raise knowledge and awareness on what constitutes an unwanted sexual experience.
“A lot of young men and women don’t understand that if you’re drunk and you have sex, it can be considered rape.”
Throughout the prototype development, the team has engaged teens in focus groups to provide feedback.
Rachel Nash, project coordinator, is responsible for (among other things) getting feedback from teens to help guide the project and make sure it’s believable and something that would be helpful to them.
Before any of the prototype development started, a teen focus group (males and females ages 14-18) was held to determine their knowledge and interest levels on the matter.
“We asked questions about what teen dating violence is and what it looks like, if they were aware of the laws and outcomes if they were to do certain things. A lot of them are not aware of laws regarding sex and consent,” Nash said.
A script was developed for the initial dramas and teens were brought together to critique it and give feedback on whether it sounded realistic and was engaging or not.
A group of teen girls met recently, and a focus group will be held for boys on Wednesday, Aug. 24 from 7-8:30 p.m. at 154 Krog St., Ste. 140 in Inman Park. Participants will be compensated $25.
If all goes according to plan, the prototype will be developed, then Salazar and Bair will receive phase-two funding to complete the project. They hope that eventually schools and programs that deal with teens will adopt the web-based program into their curriculae.
It’s too soon for a name, but the program does have a tagline that is being tested out: “Get in the way.”
“You’re always told ‘get out of the way,’ ‘stay out of others’ business,’” Salazar said.
“With this, we want to say make it your business—get in the way when you can.”
Teens interested in participating in the focus group on Aug. 24 can email email@example.com.