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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Local groups work together to encourage
violence prevention, healthy relationships

Realizing that domestic violence prevention can start at a young age, the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association and two Girl Scouts councils have joined forces to educate young girls about the topic.


KDVA and the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana and the Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road will encourage positive, inclusive behavior through programs and activities aimed at encouraging healthy relationships.


“Last fall the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association went into some pretty serious talks about expanding their focus from the crisis intervention that they do – hotlines and referrals, shelters – to really become more actively engaged in prevention around domestic violence issues,” said Susan Hansell, CEO of Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road.”


That is when they reached out to both Girl Scout councils to expand their message and work.


“The three organizations made the very strategic decision to support each other in helping create an environment for girls that is healthy life affirming and that works towards making sure that our Girl Scouts don’t become their girls who were victims of situations of domestic violence,” Hansell said.


The purpose of the collaboration is to change accepted norms of behavior and language for girls, particularly regarding one of the primary issues among young girls – bullying, Hansell said.


By changing attitudes about negative and hurtful behavior at young age, the KDVA and Girl Scouts hope to instill an understanding of characteristics of healthy relationships in young girls, decreasing their chances of becoming involved in situations of domestic violence later in their lives.


“We know from research that KDVA has shared with us, that 25 percent of elementary school students, our youngest Girl Scouts, are involved in some sort of bullying or antisocial or negative behavior that is hurtful to either themselves and others,” she said. “For younger girls, its not often necessarily physical violence, pushing and shoving, it may not even be name calling. It might be more subtle things like not letting someone sit with you a t lunch or not letting someone play with you on the playground.”


Though the collaboration is focused on getting Girl Scouts involved in positive activities and events, the efforts of the collaboration will reach out to all young girls, even those who are not members of a Girl Scout troop, by creating an inclusive environment around Girl Scouts troops.


“We’re also working really hard to provide opportunities for girls to experience Girl Scouts through amazing one-day events like [the] Science and Technology program at UK in the fall. We bring several hundred girls together for what’s called the STEM. We’re looking to really reach out to lots of girls who might want to participate in just that event,” Hansell said.


In addition to reaching out to nonmembers of Girl Scouts, the collaboration with the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association will also serve to reach out to recruit new members to become involved in Girl Scouts.


“The other part of what we want to do is work with our volunteer core and begin to have conversations with our volunteers through our training and outreach around this message of inclusiveness, making sure that our volunteers understand that we want every girl that they know who is interested in Girl Scouts to find that Girl Scouts is welcoming and available to them.”


As part of the collaboration, Girl Scout troops will also increase the work they already do with domestic violence shelters, Hansell said.


“We’re actually taking Girl Scouts into the shelter and providing the Girl Scout experience for girls who are victims of domestic violence and who have unfortunately been forced to leave their homes, but fortunately finding a safe environment in a domestic violence shelter,” Hansell said. “We’ll be working in the Bluegrass area with the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program to provide some Girl Scout activities to the girls that are there.”


Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear is involved in the collaboration through her annual donation drive, called Shop and Share, which provides domestic violence shelters with needed supplies. She is scheduled to be present on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the state Capitol in Frankfort for the press conference to officially announce the collaboration at 1:15 p.m.


Photos from Girl Scouts of Kentucky Wilderness Road Council



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