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G-Sync: RAVE, Not Rape

Summer is the season of romance. It fills our movie screens, our late night beach gatherings, and even social pages like Facebook, where a status update can set off a chain of events.

But we know that romance also happens all year long, and that it's not always wonderful. When romance turns violent for our area teens, they often need tools to break the cycle.

An organization in our city that understands the complexities of romance and its impact on a student's life is the Family Futures' Resources Against Violent Encounters (RAVE). This program seeks to empower teens and help them cultivate healthy relationships, regardless of their past.

By attacking the root causes of violence, RAVE, a hybrid of research-based curriculum and boots-on-the-ground rapid response, seeks to break the cycles of violence in teens' lives. RAVE offers three-, six-, or nine-week sessions and was conducted in area schools for students in junior and high school from 1994 until spring of 2012. The program used trained facilitators who often looked like the students they were serving in order to create trust and authenticity in the classroom. 

In 2012, funding for this program began to radically shift and they were forced to cancel the program. After nearly two decades of working in our area schools and 10,000 students served, RAVE's difficult-to-measure, violence-breaking classes found themselves with no funding. RAVE went silent and stayed that way for the 2012-13 school year.

Alarmed members of our community began to rally to restore this program for the 2013-14 year in a summer campaign called 'Save RAVE.'

RAVE programs began in 1994 as the brainchild of Mary Murch and her friend, Constance Grzanka. The pair had looked into the case of a 17-year-old girl who was raped and murdered and discovered that the perpetrator himself was a victim of childhood abuse and neglect. He was repeating a cycle that was taught to him.

"If we could reach this child at an early age with a program like RAVE, then we would be giving them the tools they need to unlearn the behavior," says Lucy Joswick, M.Y.D., Community Development Director at Future Families. "With RAVE, we start the conversation -- often for the very first time -- for these students who may not know any other way to act. We guide them through a series of sessions that allow them to undo the many layers of violence, thus helping them have healthy relationships."

Violence comes in a couple cycles, according to Joswick. The first one is generational violence where a person is raised in a violent household and is just acting out by the example presented in the home. Over time, this violence is normalized, ensuring it is passed down to the next generation.

The domestic cycle of violence comes in waves. The first is often call the eggshell phase, where a feeling of fear guides one's steps. This phase is when the tension begins to build until it crosses over into the acute violence phase, where a physical or emotional act occurs. Finally, the third and equally sinister phase is when the "I'm sorry" arrives in the form of gifts or flowers. This is what is known in the clinical field as 'the honeymoon phase.' It, too, is short-lived before the eggshell phase returns.

To those on the outside, it might be easy to speak from a place of privilege. "Why don't you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and leave the bastard?" This rationale is often trumped by the reality that this is the life many kids know because of their environment. Let's not forget that this is happening at a time of our lives when even the simplest of choices can sometimes bring about the most unrealistic anxiety regarding acceptance. Teens are fragile and highly impressionable.

"We purposefully try and place facilitators in the classroom that reflect the student body they are leading with a series of exercises created to unlock insight within the students while imparting the tools they need to be firm in what they will accept on behalf of their partners," says Joswick, who, before coming on board with Family Futures, was a participant herself in the program. "In addition, because our program is a hybrid of the curriculum but also includes organic elements we have developed here over time, we are able to adapt quickly to the ever-changing landscape of teens and their relationships."

This is why the program has addressed topics like sexting and the implications of the act for the student (for instance, they could be prosecuted for producing child pornography because of the age of students), to how social media plays a role in their relationships. They have even been working in advanced gender programming that not only touches on the behavior of bullying, but employs elements of inclusion that make the growing LGBT teen community feel welcome. 

And while they do testing at the beginning and end to measure the how well the students grasp the material, Joswick is also proud that former students have taken the time to write a letter of support.

"We are encouraged by the feedback we receive, even if some of it does arrive on our website asking to be posted anonymously," says Joswick. "We also hope, as we move into the next few years, to begin to offer this to children in elementary school. From the issues we have identified in this age bracket, which has included children taking notice of the opposite sex at earlier and earlier ages, we need to start this program sooner."

The Save RAVE campaign is set up to run until the middle of August. Contributors can sponsor an entire classroom’s sessions ($250) or organize a group of friends, family, or co-workers to help sponsor a portion of a school's ability to participate. Either way, any contribution to help end violence is a small fee, considering the costs involved when we do not seek to cure this learned behavior.

There are many programs in our community addressing violence in other age brackets and by neighborhood. RAVE is a unique program that began when a couple of community members responded to a harmful event, both knowing inaction was not an option.  

The Future Needs All of Us.

Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor

Leap to a list of the best of our area's events, curated by Tommy. (You're welcome.)

Editor’s Note: I will apologize for the aggressive nature of my headline this week. It is just unfortunate that over the 2012-13 school year, zero RAVE classes were conducted due to funding cuts. In the service of building an opportunity to showcase the critical need to get funding restored to this program that seeks to break the cycle of violence in our teens, sometimes an editor must expand upon the niceties of language to capture attention. In the end, if they are able to restore this program --  as of press time, they have raised nearly 50 percent of their goal -- then the means are justified because the intentionality of building a loving and healthy generation has been served. Click here to give.
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