Expect Respect expansion project continues to California with overwhelming support

Written by Ellen Wilder

SAFE’s Expect Respect team would like to recognize the team in Hemet, California for expanding their teen dating violence prevention programming after participating in a 2-day site training in August 2022.

Hemet is one of four communities funded by The Allstate Foundation. Their goal is to build upon their teen dating violence prevention initiatives by partnering with Expect Respect in Austin between March 2022 and November 2023. To read more about the grant project and the recent 2-day training in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, you can click here.

REACH, the agency we are partnering with in Hemet, specializes in the prevention, intervention, and treatment of sexual and domestic violence, childhood trauma and abuse, and human trafficking. Prior to this grant project, REACH’s counseling team had experience using the support group curriculum for years, and Executive Director Gayle Hepner was successful in advocating for two school districts REACH serves to increase the number of weekly group sessions by 50%.

This is a big win when it comes to supporting youth who have been exposed to and/or experienced relationship violence. A recent CDC evaluation of the secondary support group curriculum found a link between the number of sessions attended and a decrease in perpetration and aggression; in other words, the more support group sessions young people attend, the more likely they are to stop engaging in violence.

Anecdotally, students in support groups and Expect Respect counselors have observed that students who participate in support groups for the entire school year—or up to 24 sessions—can build deep relationships with each other and practice healthy relationship skills in meaningful ways with a trusted, tight-knit community.

Image description: A man, Adam Klaybor, is standing in front of a television monitor giving a presentation.

Adam Klaybor, Expect Respect Consultant, facilitating several rounds of Dating Jeopardy at the Lunch & Learn so participants could experience an activity from the Secondary Support Group Curriculum.

Adam Klaybor, LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) and former Expect Respect Counselor in Austin, serves as the Expect Respect Consultant for the Hemet site. He proposed hosting a 2-hour Lunch and Learn for community members during the 2-day training to share information about the program while also considering time restraints of school staff.

Over 20 partners, including board members, school counselors, drama teachers, and professionals involved with social/emotional learning came to the Lunch and Learn to hear about the multi-level program components of Expect Respect. They participated in activities from the support group curriculum and youth leadership manual, and reflected on the ways teen dating violence prevention is inherently tied into everyone’s goal of safer, more welcoming communities.

REACH staff and partners shared that many people from the Lunch and Learn reached out afterward to ask for programming on their campus, which really helped get the ball rolling at the start of the school year!

During the rest of the 2-day training, we got to work closely with REACH team members Mallory, Ava, Renee, Katherine, Holly, and Gayle and a community partner, Val, to plan how they wanted to start the school year and ideas for expanding on their work. Hearing about the team’s history of championing student safety and success and deep commitment to community work left the Consultant and Training Manager excited to see the way the training and access to grant funds can open doors for more prevention work in Hemet and beyond.

Image description: A photo of several people looking at the camera. They are all smiling and a couple people are wearing masks.

Adam (Consultant), Ellen (Training Manager), and members of REACH: Holly, Gayle, Renee, Ava, Katherine, and Mallory, and community partner Val.

We are amazed at the way REACH has jumped into action and are thinking about how to sustainably bring Expect Respect to campuses across The Valley. Their support groups are well under way and their team is in the process of determining what the youth leadership component of the program will look like in their community.