By Herna Alexandre ‘16 and Aneesa Ahmed ‘16
Approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide suffer from abusive relationships. One in 10 students is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse. This issue has caught the attention of our school, leading to its involvement in the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program.
RAPP is a non-profit New York City school based domestic violence prevention program. It is designed to help teenagers recognize and change harmful behavior patterns before they enter into an adult relationship.
According to nyc.gov Department of Social Services, about 54 high schools and eight middle schools are involved in the program. RAPP is currently working on a curriculum for elementary schools.
RAPP was brought into high schools and middle schools because the highest cases of reported dating violence were from females around the ages of 16 to 24.
It was believed that if there was someone in the schools doing some abuse prevention work for those around that age group that the number of abusive relationships would decrease.
The program has been in progress since October and is being coordinated by Ms. Haley Schwartz in room 485. Currently, approximately 30 students are involved in RAPP. It consists of a three part workshop dealing with the six types of abuse (financial, cyber, physical, emotional/mental, sexual, and verbal abuse), rape and sexual harassment, and the characteristics of a healthy and an unhealthy relationship.
“At the workshops we learned interesting facts we didn’t know before such as, how boys can also get sexually and physically abused in relationships,” said Mohamed Abdelgadio’18.
What happens in RAPP stays in RAPP! Everything that is spoken about in the RAPP sessions remain confidential and the students aren’t pressured into sharing out.
“I believe that it is everybody’s choice whether they want to share or not,” said Ms. Schwartz, “the work isn’t for me, it’s for the students so if they don’t want to share I won’t force them to.”
In order to make those who come to her feel comfortable, Ms. Schwartz believes in first getting to know them so that they are more relaxed when it comes to sharing out during the sessions. However, if the students are still hesitant to participate she doesn’t goad them into it.
“My job is not to get people to tell me anything,” said Ms. Schwartz, “my job is to help people figure out what they need and how they would like to be supported.”
Ms. Schwartz’s overall goal in RAPP is not to change the students, but to help them realize that they have the capability of creating a healthy environment for themselves both inside and outside of a relationship. She also hopes to help them unlearn unhealthy social norms that may contribute to violence both in and out of relationships.
“I know I’m not going to change or fix anyone,” said Ms. Shwartz, “but I want to be a stop on the path to healthier behavior and healthier self image.”
Although RAPP is a domestic violence prevention program, it doesn’t solely focus on relationships. RAPP also helps those who are dealing with low self-esteem, depression, and those who are having difficulties at home.
“I feel happy that there is a program like RAPP, and I am happy that Ms. Schwartz reached out to the class because it made people more willing to share,” said Ashley Harris ‘15.
To help those dealing with traumatic issues, Ms.Schwartz gets them to focus on themselves so that they can see their better qualities and realize that they deserve to be treated better than they are actually treated.
“Everybody has what they need inside of them, they just need help in figuring out the ways they are strong,” said Ms.
Ms. Schwartz hopes that taking part in RAPP, students will learn to like themselves more and feel more empowered in their own lives. She also hopes that the program will give students a better sense of commitment to creating a better world.