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Students address teen dating violence prevention

RUTLAND - Cierra Phelps, a member of the Stafford Technical Center SADD Chapter, who is in the Public Safety Services Program, recently wrote and was awarded a competitive national grant dealing with teen dating violence prevention. The grant was one of 10 nationwide that was granted by DoSomething.org with funds from the Liz Claiborne Foundation.

After being awarded the grant, Cierra and her fellow SADD members and classmates went to work to fulfill the requirements of the grant, which was challenging as the grant required an initial presentation of the program, which was called "Hands Are Not For Hitting", in the space of about 10 school days. The centerpiece of the program was a "silent witness" campaign, 8 plywood silhouettes of victims of dating violence, each with a personal story. The 8 silhouettes were of 6 women, 1 man, and 1 dog. Animals are often victims of domestic violence and teen dating violence and are abused to terrify the victim or used as a pawn in the relationship. The plywood silhouettes were made by Mr. Jeff Fowler of the Construction Technology Program and his students and then were painted by Stafford Technical Center SADD members Cierra Phelps, Haley Cotrupi, and Erika Stocker from Mill River Union High School, Jo Lilly from Otter Valley Union High School, and Kayla Stewart from West Rutland High School.

The students developed a pledge for others to sign, which included a pledge not to be involved in an abusive relationship, either as the abuser or the abused person, and also, if they are a bystander witness to domestic or dating violence, to take some action, if only to report the abuse. The SADD members set up the silent witness campaign outside the cafeteria that serves the students at Rutland High School and Stafford Technical Center. There was also a table where students or staff members could get information. Over 400 people signed the pledge that day and were given a purple silicone bracelet with the saying "Hands Are Not For Hitting" on it. The bracelets and the "witnesses" fostered a lot of discussion.

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