Every other year, A Safe Place takes part in the Wellness III/IV sexual harassment unit. A Safe Place, the only organization on Nantucket which has a 24-hour hotline, was founded in 1987 by five members of the Nantucket Women’s Bar Association. The organization has been providing sexual assault prevention and education programs to Nantucket’s youth for almost twenty 20 years. Jennifer Frazee, the Director of Program Services at a Safe Place, joined Beth Davidson, a wellness teacher at NHS, for a two week intervention this past January.
“I began working at A Safe Place in August of 2007, so I have been working for the agency for nearly 10 years. I started as a volunteer and shortly thereafter got hired as the Sexual Assault Program Coordinator. Since that time, I have been promoted to the Director of Program Services. Prior to working at A Safe Place, all of my experience had been working with teens who had been identified as juvenile delinquents. Although not true all of the time, a large percentage of the juvenile delinquents that I had worked with had either been sexually assaulted as children or teens or had grown up in homes with violence. When A Safe Place had an opening, it seemed like a good fit for me as it would allow me to help others who had been hurt,” Frazee said.
The sexual harassment unit introduces students on how to detect a healthy or unhealthy relationship, how to prevent violent situations, where they may go if they need help, how to cope with date rape and date rape drugs, and how power influences an abusive relationship. The collaboration began with David Webb, a former wellness teacher at NHS, and his invitation to a Safe Place to help teach the unit. Historically, the unit was much shorter but has grown to cover a wide range of topics from healthy relationships, consent and sexual assault, physical violence, and bystander intervention. The unit ends with students creating their own projects and presenting a topic related to relationships, whether it be related to date rape drugs or another organization that functions to prevent violence.
When asked about what she believes is the most important lesson for high school students to learn, Frazee’s message was clear:
“The most important message is twofold. First, I want high school students to know that free and confidential help is available if they or someone they know is in or has been in an abusive situation. Secondly, every student can benefit from the discussions centered around sexual consent. It’s a topic that is uncomfortable, scary and/or confusing for people to talk about; even adults. I try to make it as comfortable and realistic as possible to try to engage students on what mutual consent means. I believe that it will help them in their discussions with their partners and hopefully help prevent sexual assault from happening.”
That being said, one of the first class activities of the unit is as simple as a bingo game to help students understand signs of a healthy or unhealthy relationship.
“The collaboration between A Safe Place and the health classes happens every other year because every junior and senior participates in the two week long Preventing Violence health unit in the same year. Half of the juniors and seniors participated in January and the other half will participate near the end of this school year. As a result, all juniors and seniors will have participated in the Preventing Violence unit this school year so we will then hold off a year in order to reach all of the new Juniors and Seniors in 2019.”
Every student at NHS will be able to participate in this unit as Wellness is a required course. A Safe Place does, however, extend their services and educational presentations to middle schoolers as well as 9th graders. A NHS student run club, advised by Frazee, Student Action for Empowerment Education (SAFEE), shares information and resources regarding safe relationships, behavior and sexual health practices, in order to empower students. A Safe Place also has community service opportunities available for interested students, like office tasks, babysitting, and/or helping with children’s art projects in the community.