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By Mara Koch
Special to The SUN
Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP), in collaboration with San Juan Basin Health, promoted the LOVES Campaign Friday, Feb. 22, at Pagosa Springs High School as part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Mara Koch, Outreach and Education Coordinator at ACVAP, and Shane Lucero, Dragon Youth Project Coordinator at SJBH, hosted a table in the Commons Area of the high school during lunch.
Koch and Lucero talked with high school students about what love is to them and passed out information on how to help a friend who is in an unhealthy relationship.
The LOVES campaign originates with Darlene Clayton of Alternative Horizons in Durango. It is an easy-to-remember acronym for how to support a friend who is in an unhealthy relationship.
Research shows that one in four teens experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Only 33 percent of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse, and when they did, they most often turned to friends.
“We want to teach students how to effectively support their friends, if they are in an abusive relationship. They are the ones their peers are confiding in and who need this information the most,” said Koch.
LOVES stands for listen, options, value, empower and safety. If your friend is in an unhealthy relationship, listen to their story and try not to judge. Give them options and resources, such as talking with a trusted adult about the situation or calling the local hotline at 264-9075. Let them know that you value them and the abuse isn’t their fault. They deserve a healthy and respectful relationship. Empower them to make their own decisions. You can give them options, but don’t tell them what to do. Consider your friend’s safety as well as your own. Don’t get in the middle of an unsafe and abusive situation.
ACVAP also sponsored a “Love Is …” contest for high school students. Students created positive “Love Is …” messages on sticky notes at the lunchtime table and stuck them to the PHS LOVES banner. Students then photographed their message with their cell phones and posted them to Instagram with the #phsloveis hashtag.
Students could also upload their photo to Facebook and tag Archuleta County Victim Assistance in their photo.
Community members can view the positive messages by going to www.findinstagram.com and searching the hashtag, phsloveis, if they do not have an Instagram account. While 23 photos were uploaded to Instagram, not all can be viewed by the public, as many student users take safety precautions and do not allow their profiles to be seen by the public.
The PHS LOVES banner with all of the “Love Is …” messages can be viewed at the high school Commons Area. Students and other community members can vote for their favorite “Love Is …” message by going to the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Facebook page. Once there, click on message and cast your vote. The student with the most votes will win a $25 iTunes gift card. Voting ends March 1.