Valor Domestic Violence Program
Through their many years of working and connecting with community youth, Holy Cross Parish staff have become acutely aware of the prevalence and destructive effects of domestic and sexual violence in the neighborhood. Both nationally and in the Back of the Yards, domestic violence is an issue that needs not only urgent attention but also proactive early intervention.
After extensive dialogue with young people, much research, and planning, Holy Cross launched the Valor program in 2013 to focus on teaching young teens about healthy relationships, resistance skills, and peer-help skills before they begin dating. National research and the parish staff’s own observations show that early intervention is key; the way teenagers interact and treat each other in their young dating relationships carries through the rest of their lives to their mature intimate-partner relationships.
Valor is a multilayered program run by trained peer-educators. The program offers three layers of intervention and education—outreach events, one-time workshops, and a curriculum group—each structured to give young teens information about domestic violence and resources for help.
The outreach events are brief opportunities for the peer-educators to share some information about domestic violence and offer intervention resources, such as phone numbers and websites. The longer one-time workshops allow program leaders to offer brief activities and give young people more in-depth information, in addition to the intervention resources. In the last year, Valor has run these workshops at parish CCD classes for sixth through ninth graders and at a youth summit held by the local park district, where they reached about 100 sixth graders. For both of these types of events, the peer-educators devote significant time to answering any questions the teens might have.
Valor’s most involved aspect is its nine-week, gender-separate curriculum groups. In these groups, approximately 20 teens meet weekly for an hour to read and discuss materials from the Date Safe Project—a nationally recognized curriculum on teen dating violence prevention—participate in activities, and ask and answer questions about domestic and sexual violence. The first nine-week session is already finished, and Valor will begin a new curriculum group in the fall of 2015 with all-new participants.
During the first week, the curriculum group performs ice breakers, and peer leaders administer pretests to assess participants’ existing knowledge. During weeks two through four, the group identifies and discusses the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Week five focuses on different types of abuse and how to distinguish and identify physical and emotional abuse. During week six, group leaders discuss peer-help skills and what young people should do if someone they know is in an abusive relationship. The final two weeks ask teens to prepare a self-help guide. Throughout the course, leaders answer questions, lead activities, and serve as a resource for young people to learn and reach out.
If program participants disclose any abuse from a nonfamilial or nonhousehold relationship in the course of the program, they are encouraged and supported to seek help through national hotlines and other resources. If abuse by an immediate family or household member is disclosed, parish staff will immediately intervene to ensure the young person’s safety.
Valor is making a significant impact on the community. It’s changing the way the young people talk to and about each other and what they are attentive to in their friends’ relationships as well as their own. Parish staff and Valor leaders have found that teens are much more likely to go to adults they trust to disclose and discuss things they see in their own and their friends’ relationships. Valor is essential and unique, as there is no other program or resource like this available to young people in the community.
Right now the program is funded through the end of 2015. If Holy Cross isn’t able to secure additional funding, Valor will go on hiatus in January 2016. You can help this highly effective, essential program continue to educate and support young people by making a donation specifically to Valor or by sharing the program’s needs with friends, family, coworkers, and on social media.