A new youth program aiming to prevent domestic violence and sexual abuse launched at the first night session of KYCK on Friday April 9. Over one thousand teens and youth leaders attending the Katoomba Christian Convention youth camp heard about the initiative that aims to educate young people from the Bible about respectful relationships.
The four week program, which includes survivor’s stories, Bible studies, games and leaders notes, aims to facilitate conversations within youth groups. It’s primary focus is on prevention and covers topics including identity, love, power, romance and friendship.
Domestic violence has always been a serious issue, with one in four women and one in 13 men experiencing abuse by an intimate partner. Anglicare’s Community Service team and Anglicare’s youth initiative, Take Love, partnered with Youthworks to create “Before It Starts”, hoping to positively shape the next generation.
Abuse comes in all forms
Controlling and abusive behaviours are displayed in many different ways. For Harry*, the violent outbursts he experienced growing up meant that the best part of his day was when his Dad wasn’t home.
“When [Dad] was angry,” Harry explained, “he would hit Mum, push her into the cabinets, tell her that she was a worthless mother and that we were the proof.” The family only went out together once a week to go to church.
For Rani*, her boyfriend initially seemed sociable and extroverted. It didn’t take long for his anger to show, and he used coercive and spiritually controlling behaviour to exert power over her. This escalated until she found herself fearfully huddling with her aunt one night while he waited outside, refusing to leave and kicking the fence, until her uncle phoned the police.
Long term change is needed
“We know to make long term change in the incidence of domestic abuse we need to also address underlying beliefs and attitudes that allow it to flourish,” says Lynda Dunstan, Anglicare’s Family and Domestic Violence Advisor.
“One area to specifically start to do that is conversations with young people about what a respectful, healthy relationship looks like, and what some of the red flags of unsafe, abusive relationships are.”
The program comes at a time of national reckoning in Australia. Questions of sexual assault and domestic violence are being discussed across the country as well as discussions concerned with the sexual assult expereinced by young women.
Rev Mike Dicker, Dean of Students at Youthworks College, longs for teenagers to understand God’s design for relationships and reject the evils of abuse. “We really hope this program will shape the hearts and behaviours of our young people to follow the gracious and loving behaviour of the Lord Jesus.
“Wherever the gospel is proclaimed, we long to see it lived out in safe and equal relationships that shine as a light in the darkness and injustice of our world.”
*These survivor’s stories are included in the Before it Starts program. Survivor’s names have been changed.