With the Public Service Announcement competition at local schools on dating violence prevention, The Retreat once again proves their ability to engage the community in a thoughtful, topical and meaningful way. By placing budding students in charge of crafting a short PSA film, the young adults are the ones who control the content. They will no doubt find a message that speaks to their modern experiences of dating instead of regurgitating the stale facts found in any cheesy early 1990s PSA, in which the bad acting and outmoded fashions are laughable. These are the youth growing up in the age of “sexting.” Pornography is no longer relegated to a curtained backroom of a seedy store but can be accessed in a matter of seconds with the click of a mouse. We would be naive to presume that before the Internet teenagers weren’t engaging in sexual behavior. Of course they were, but their outlet for exploring these feelings was vastly different than today. With that being said, education on teen dating needs to be updated to meet the changing times and technology.
We hope these films do not solely focus on young women as victims or potential prey. When almost a third of girls in a relationship have been pressured to have sex or engage in sexual acts, prevention needs to also start with examining male behavior and their perceptions of women. This issue is much larger than the East End and needs to be addressed as a nation. Time and time again we see evidence of our cultural obsession with female sexuality and chastity without looking at the exploits of their male counterparts. Why do fathers chaperone their pre-pubescent daughters to purity balls in which the girls wear all white and promise to save themselves before marriage, while there is no such initiation process for young men? Why is it that Tiger Woods is labeled a philanderer while his army of girlfriends on the side are looked at as whores? Woods behavior was in fact quite promiscuous if you think about it.
In their infinite wisdom, The Retreat also handles this thorny issue through a program called Structured Help Antiviolence Re-education Program, “a group for men who are physically, verbally and/or emotionally abusive toward their partners.” This is one of the few courses we have seen to openly challenge male behavior. If The Retreat is able to continue their diligent work, we hope at least in our area the dialogue surrounding dating violence will change course.