ELIZABETHTOWN - Melissa Estes knows that behavior is learned early.
Because of that, she is going around to local schools and talking about healthy dating relationships, about how to recognize unhealthy relationships and about how to identify when a relationship could lead to domestic violence.
"We want to help bring awareness to students in schools about relationship violence and healthy relationships and give them the chance to talk about what is going on around them," Estes, who works with STOP Domestic Violence in Essex County, said. "We just started this program in Essex County is September and we have gotten a good response form the local schools."
Estes said she has been in contact with every school in Essex County about the program and, so far, has delivered presentations at North Country Community College, Moriah, Ticonderoga, Lake Placid and Elizabethtown-Lewis Central Schools.
At ELCS, Estes talked with students in the 10th-grade health class taught by Rebecca Lewis.
"I think that domestic violence and violence in relationships is something that people sometimes overlook and don't realize how much of an issue it is at all ages," Lewis said. "In Essex County, we have amazing resources available to us and to have someone like Melissa come in and talk to the students gives them a better idea where they can turn."
"I think that it is very helpful," sophomore Brody Hooper said. "It was a good, clear presentation that was helpful, especially if there are people who are scared and need to find someone to ask for help."
"I have known a few people who have gone through problems like she brought up in the presentation," sophomore Hannah Bender said. "This helps me to know how to handle things like this better now."
Estes said that the program is based on programs that are currently being offered in Clinton County, and is available to middle school students through high school.
She added that while STOP Domestic Violence mostly works with adults, they realize that the same situations can present themselves in teenage and school relationships.
"We know that all these things that happen in adult relationships can also happen in relationships involving teens," Estes said. "When things get serious, you need to talk to someone about it, and we are just one of many places you can turn."
For more information on the STOP Domestic Violence presentation, which are provided through Behavioral Health Services North, Inc. out of Westport, contact Estes at 563-6904 or through e-mail at email@example.com.