Student mentors take on taboo subject

Bernadette Kunna and Claire Jackson, with students from Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College

Bernadette Kunna and Claire Jackson, with students from Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College

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A group of students put themselves forward to become awareness champions for those in abusive relationships while in school.

Teenagers at Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College volunteered to learn more about domestic abuse and mentor students who may be at risk of or be suffering domestic abuse.

The scheme came about after Fylde Coast Women’s Aid and Lancashire Police approached the school in March with an education and mentoring opportunity for students aged 16 and above.

Young persons’ outreach worker Bernadette Kunna and Claire Jackson from Fylde Coast Women’s Aid met with students to give advice.

Sixth former Catherine O’Hara, 17, said: “I think the contributing factors in domestic abuse is the rise in social networking resulting in young people becoming sexualised, following undesirable media role models and failing to distinguish right from wrong, leading to undesirable attention and unhappy relationships.

“We are hoping to raise awareness to encourage people to come forward, ask questions, get advice and social network safely.”

Since March, the official definition of domestic violence has been extended to include young people aged 16 to 17.

This follows on from the Government’s Teenage Relationship Abuse Campaign, and is supported by the British Crime Survey 2009/10, which found that 16 to 19-year-olds were the group most likely to suffer abuse from a partner.

Student Adam Mackle added: “We all know these things happen but often ignore that fact.

“To offer help and support, give advice, and assist in any way we can, will be a positive response.

“Hopefully as I see things from a male perspective I can perhaps add to the group’s effectiveness.”

Sue Strother, the school’s peer mentor coordinator said: “This is a challenging opportunity for these students. They will be in a position to make a real difference to the lives of their peers.

“Domestic abuse can be a taboo subject and many are not aware of the help that is available.

“This initiative will raise awareness and signpost support for those in abusive relationships.”