dating violence

Valerie Williams speaks to a group of Brunswick High School students about the dangers of dating violence Wednesday.

Toriano Gilbert, principal at Brunswick High School, is fully aware that bullying takes place in his school.

“We know that there are some students that are being bullied,” he said. “We’re not in denial to that fact — that there’s some student here at Brunswick High School, just like any other school in America, that’s being bullied.”

This year, to be proactive and address that issue head on, the administration decided to host the first “Anti-Bullying Week,” which wrapped up Friday.

Throughout the week, students have been watching videos and engaging in class discussions regarding the importance of speaking out against bullying and giving students suggestions on how to handle any bullying they see.

Valerie Williams, a local speaker and author, talked with a group of students Wednesday about the signs and risks of dating violence among high school students.

“When you’re in a relationship, you don’t belong to them and they don’t belong to you ... because you’re not property,” Williams told the students. “So have respect for yourself and don’t allow anybody to treat you that way.”

Years ago, Williams’s husband shot her three times during an argument. After recovering, Williams decided to dedicate her career to empowering women and speaking around the country about domestic violence. She has also written several books on the subject.

For the last four years, Georgia has been the No. 1 state in the nation where dating violence occurs among ages 16 to 24, Williams said.

So students need to learn about the signs and risks of dating violence as early as possible, she said.

“They just don’t really know what a healthy relationship is,” she said. “More education is needed.”

She encouraged students who find themselves in a toxic relationship to speak to a someone.

“Get some help,” she said.

She also said it’s likely all the students at the assembly knew someone in an unhealthy relationship.

“You cannot be silent about it if you see it,” she said. “You have to either tell somebody or even try to encourage your friend and say ‘Look you deserve better than that.’”

Several students laughed or made jokes throughout Williams’ presentation, and she said she sees that response often.

“I think they laugh it off when it is in fact a reality to them,” she said.

Healthy relationships are reflected by honesty, respect and clear boundaries, she said.

“Have you personal space and honor yourself — that’s a healthy relationship,” Williams told the students.

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