Back to School - Creating Healthy Relationships

Community Against Violence and Taos area schools

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Community Against Violence (CAV) is known as Taos’ shelter for women, children and men who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence. When we hear CAV mentioned, we picture a place where you can go to be safe and get help in crisis situations.

Many people are not aware of the organization’s prevention programs, provided in schools throughout the county. CAV prevention programs teach students of all ages about safety for themselves and their peers.

Annually, CAV prevention staff speak during orientation to Taos Municipal School staff about these prevention programs. The message is clear. Prevention programs are an important and vital opportunity for schools and teachers to impact the social learning of their students in a profound way. Students can learn about forms of violence known to many of them, but kept as secrets, and how to manage these issues in their own lives.

Programs are available for grades kindergarten through 12th. Each age-appropriate curriculum guides students through a pyramid of learning skills, building step-by-step confidence as the information unfolds. Students interact with each other as well as with their teachers. Then they take the information home and continue the conversation with parents and caregivers.

Being able to identify signs and traits of domestic violence and sexual assault is important for all ages, but it can be critical for teenagers and pre-teens starting to date and developing relationships for the first time.

The "2014 Sex Crimes Trends in New Mexico" report cites that 86 sexual assault survivors in Taos County were children and teens 17 years of age and under. Furthermore, the "2013 New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey" of Taos High School showed 88 students reported physical dating violence; 77 students reported sexual dating violence; and 56 students reported ever having been forced to have sexual intercourse. Finally, in 2016, CAV responded to 71 allegations of child abuse/neglect in Taos County.

Teens who experience dating violence are at a much higher risk for suicide, bullying, alcohol and drug use, fighting, carrying a weapon and having multiple unprotected sexual partners. Without knowing who or where they can turn for safety, the majority of teens who are abused hide that fact from their parents and peers.

After attending previous CAV presentations, many educators say they wish someone had given them this presentation when they were their students’ age. Now, as adults, they can identify behaviors considered normal or not acceptable in any relationship.

CAV programs on healthy relationships are available for all ages. VOZ, grades K-5, focuses on feelings and emotions, personal boundaries, respect, asking for help, identifying safe adults, safe/unsafe and secret touches, the concepts of surprises, privacy and passwords, and encourages learning correct names for all body parts to help prevent sexual abuse.

PODER, grades 6-12, was expanded in the schools beyond grade 8 after the New Mexico Department of Health report showed CAV’s program out-performed the national evidence-based program previously administered to classes. PODER focuses on understanding media messages, body awareness and acceptance, and tolerance. Students learn about respect, personal boundaries, conflict resolution, communication skills, consent, anger and emotions, healthy relationships and resources for help.

VECINOS is a program for organizations and businesses that provides information on cultural influences and power dynamics. VECINOS supports organizations to engage in creating policies to promote safety and equality for their employees and the people that they serve.

CAV is located at 945 Salazar Road, (575) 758-8082. The 24-hour crisis hotline is (575) 758-9888. For more information, go to TaosCAV.org. To discuss prevention programs for your class or business, contact CAV, (575) 758-8082.

Susan Embry is the media relations director at CAV.

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