During the training session on Feb. 15, Bolton trained 17 sophomores, 10 juniors, and 4 seniors to become qualified leaders through DOVE Youth Speaks. The program ran for five hours, and consisted of interactive, as well as formative activities that allowed peer leaders in training to have respectful conversations with each other in regards to their overall knowledge of dating violence.
“[High school] is the time that relationships really start, so if you have a good understanding about it today, then it can spawn throughout your adult life,” said sophomore Christopher Reilly.
As an educator, Bolton provides counseling for victims that reach out to DOVE, while simultaneously traveling to schools in the Norfolk county to train peer leaders through Youth Speaks.
“By expanding the definition of abuse to include emotional abuse and technological abuse, more people are coming out to share that these are behaviors that are happening in their relationship,” said Bolton.
The Youth Speaks activities heavily focus around consent: the purpose, the significance, and the strategies to identify consent. In Massachusetts, the age of consent is 16, and the person must be sober. Bolton’s lessons on consent highlight both the verbal and emotional ways to express consent.
“There’s a saying, ‘Checking in with a girl before you kiss her ruins the moment,’ but not checking in with a girl before kissing her means that you don’t know if she is consenting,” said junior Abigail Murray.
With these skills under their belt, 13 students will teach alongside Walpole High’s health teachers the seriousness of dating violence on March 12 and 13. They will adapt their skills from Youth Speaks into freshman health classes. The rest of Youth Speaks will speak to freshman health classes in the fall.
“We want to talk to students young,” said Bolton. “If we are talking to people about these behaviors after they have already started, it’s not really prevention. If we’re doing real prevention, it would be helping people address these behaviors before they already happen."
In order to have a better understanding of how serious it is for Walpole High School to address dating violence, the Walpole Police Department arranged for Dr. Astley to share his daughter’s story.
Lauren Dunne Astley, daughter of Dr. Astley, was tragically murdered by her high school boyfriend on July 3, 2011. After officially terminating their on-again, off-again relationship, Lauren was beaten, strangled and slashed to death in her partner’s home. Aside from sharing the events of what his daughter endured in his presentations, Dr. Astley also educated middle schools, high schools, and communities in Massachusetts about how to recognize an abusive partner.
“There is hope that organization treats harm,” said Dr. Astley. “Action is within our reach to identify and reverse our own cultural rearing of boys and men to take a violent and dominating path toward meeting their needs, paths that, in fact, often have the exact opposite effect of their intentions.”
Dr. Astley described his personal experience with dating violence. Simultaneously, he advocated for nine practical approaches to help prevent violence within interpersonal and personal relationships (See bottom).
“We need to know the warning signs of abuse, to create safe paths for information to move to identified experts, and to define clear steps for delivering help,” said Dr. Astley. “By knowing and talking about these signs as a community, [we] will all stand to be more caring, fairer, and safer together.”