The Retreat is working with several community partners in Hampton Bays to help combat sexual violence in the community.
The East Hampton nonprofit, whose mission is to provide safety, shelter and support for victims of domestic abuse, has partnered with the Hampton Bays Public Library and the Hampton Bays School District to construct a curriculum at the district’s middle and high schools, teaching students how to recognize and prevent violence and bullying.
Though it’s still in its infancy, once the SHAPE—sexual harassment and abuse prevention education—curriculum is complete, teachers will begin educating students through classes on three basic programs: One Circle, Bringing in the Bystander and Shifting Boundaries.
According to Vicky Urbelis, the head of teen services at the library, each of the classes is tailored by age to help students feel empowered, and to give them the tools to recognize and reduce peer and dating violence and sexual harassment.
“All together, they give the complete picture of violence prevention and education,” she said.
Nicole Keller, The Retreat’s project coordinator, added that sexual violence among young adults and children is much more common than most people think.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls, 24.7 percent, and one in six boys, 16 percent, are sexually abused before the age of 18. Additionally, 74 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 have said that they were assaulted by someone that they knew personally.
Drawing from her experiences at the library, Mr. Urbelis said that a number of the children she sees on a daily basis experience violence in their homes or at school.
“I see it every day,” she said. “A lot of them experience violence every day. Not just bullying—they experience relationship violence, and they don’t understand that that’s not okay. And that’s how it perpetuates.
“Our goal is to change these social norms,” she continued. “It’s a change to say, ‘It’s not okay.’”
Currently, the Hampton Bays School District’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, Denise Sullivan, is reviewing several years’ worth of data, which is collected by the Southampton Town Youth Bureau every three years, to determine what she called the “red flags.”
The data, she explained, are from surveys completed by the district’s middle and high school students, which contain questions such as: “Do you have stress or anxiety?” “Have you tried marijuana?” and “When was the first time you had a drink of alcohol?”
For instance, if the biggest problem areas are anxiety and underage drinking, the curriculum will be tailored to those issues, Ms. Sullivan said. “It identifies where the red flags are and helps us put programs into place.”
However, prior to bringing the program to the hamlet’s schools, its teachers must first attend trainings to become certified in each of the aforementioned methods.
Ms. Keller said that each of the trainings, which are taught through their respective agencies, will be provided free of charge through a $612,260 Rape Prevention Education Grant awarded to The Retreat—in partnership with LI Against Domestic Violence of Central Islip—from the CDC and the New York State Department of Health.
Ms. Urbelis, who is One Circle certified, did, however, note that the next training—Bringing in the Bystander—is scheduled for January 8 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cicatelli Training Center on Eighth Avenue in New York City. The grant would cover the cost for eight participants, including Hampton Bays High School physical education and health teacher Jake Davidson, and Hampton Bays Middle School English teacher Jessica Davis, to attend the training. However, Ms. Keller stressed that the training is not open to the public and is strictly limited to the community partners working with The Retreat.
On Wednesday, Hampton Bays Library Director Susan LaVista supported the coalition wholeheartedly.
“In this world that we live in, with all the crazy stuff that’s going on, I feel that this is an important initiative aimed not only at children but at educators,” she said. “It’s training everyone to have a different mindset and to be mindful of what’s going on around them.”