Games help teens open up about dating violence

BIONIC youth program President Jessica Wray, left, runs a game designed to raise awareness of teen dating violence. (Feb. 12, 2020) Photo courtesy of Emily Stoddard

During a week of games and activities, the BIONIC youth program taught teens about the issue of dating violence.

Cordova Family Resource Center and the Native Village of Eyak partnered to support BIONIC Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week, held Feb. 10-14 at Cordova Jr./Sr. High School. The event was part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, taking place throughout February. Sixty-three students participated in this year’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week, said Emily Stoddard, CFRC prevention coordinator.

Games were used to help students grow more comfortable talking about the sensitive topic of verbal, psychological and physical abuse in relationships, Stoddard said. One activity had students take pieces of paper describing dating scenarios and sort them into two buckets, based on whether or not the scenarios depicted a healthy relationship. This activity helped students learn to discern normal forms of romantic conflict from signs of abuse, said NVE Family Program Coordinator Jessica Weaver, who helped design games for the event.

“It’s nice to have some way to interact with the kids instead of just handing out pamphlets,” Weaver said.

From left, Native Village of Eyak Family Program Coordinator Jessica Weaver and Cordova Family Resource Center Prevention Coordinator Emily Stoddard participate in a teen dating violence awareness event at Cordova Jr./Sr. High School. (Feb. 11, 2020) Photo courtesy of Emily Stoddard

Other activities mixed material on dating violence with more general material to help maintain a reasonably light tone, Stoddard said. At the end of the week, students received goodie bags with water bottles, lanyards, pens and other items with anti-dating-violence branding. NVE also sponsored a raffle for a gift bag containing a basketball and other merchandise.

Weaver hopes the program will teach students to identify and deal with forms of violence that often take place behind closed doors, she said. Working with the school was instrumental to the event’s success, Stoddard said, as it’s more challenging to draw students to out-of-school activities.

“I hope that the kids learned that this is an issue that can affect them and that, if they are in that situation, that there are people who care and there is help available,” Stoddard said.