It took just one conversation to put domestic violence on Alex Barr’s radar.
The Mental Health Peer Worker was in Year 10 when a group came to visit her school to talk about abusive relationships.
It was a watershed moment for the then 15-year-old who knew little about violence against women.
“That was the first time I ever heard that there was a cycle of behaviour to domestic violence, and that there were warning signs you could look for,’’ Alex says.
“No one had ever had that conversation with me before, and it really stuck.
“It was always in the back of my mind growing up after that and every relationship I got into.’’
Now 30, Alex hopes to exert the same positive influence on female students she meets as co-facilitator of EMPOWERED.
A joint program between Centacare and Port Adelaide Football Club, EMPOWERED will visit secondary schools this term for the first time to enhance female Year 10 students’ understanding of what healthy relationships look like, and how to identify red flags that can lead to abusive behaviours.
“For 15-year-old me who can’t remember anything else I did that year, to take a similar message and embed it into how I live my life, obviously was very powerful, and I think that’s why I see this program as being so important,’’ Alex says.
EMPOWERED will run alongside the Power to End Violence Against Women program, which teaches Year 10 boys how to recognise and stand up to disrespect of women. The program has engaged more than 5000 male students since it began in 2016.
Girls will participate in EMPOWERED in two one-hour sessions delivered over consecutive weeks at the same time as their male peers undertake PEVAW.
Key messages include early warning signs and cycles of abuse; how gender-based stereotypes normalise unhealthy behaviours; and the charter of women’s rights.
Alex will be joined by fellow co-facilitator and Mental Health Worker, Caitlyn Woodcock.
“I had a respectful relationship modelled in front of me but, when you’re a teenage girl, you don’t feel the same as the boy; patriarchy is ingrained in us and it will take a long time and a lot of education to unpick it,’’ Caitlyn says.
“I would hope that out of this program, girls have a stronger understanding of what their rights are in a relationship, and are more confident of calling out behaviour that’s of a controlling or violent nature.’’