Each year 1.5 million high school students across the country experience physical abuse from a dating partner. Educators consider abuse and sexual assault among teens an epidemic. Now, Texas high school coaches are taking the lead to end it.
For Texas coaches, building muscle is no longer their only job. Building character and developing a culture of respect has become just as important.
"Helping coaches to help kids. That's what we do,” said Texas High School Coaches Association Executive Director D.W. Rutledge.
The Texas High School Coaches Association and the Texas Education Agency announced Friday they have partnered to tackle what they call an epidemic.
"Research tells us 1 in 4 college women will be sexually assaulted in their careers on college campus. It tells us that for youngsters between 17 and 24 the numbers are unfathomably great in terms of sexual assault,” said Michael Williams, former commissioner of education. “What can we do?"
From that question came curriculum developed specifically for coaches who so often serve as role models on their campuses.
"We're going to have great coaches in every high school in the state that coach every sport, boys and girls, talking to them about how you go about the business of respecting each other and the business of reducing the incidents of sexual assault and physical violence committed on each other,” said Williams.
"Starting the Conversation" is a three-part program and features a series of videos. Lesson 1 is recognizing the issue. Lesson 2 focuses on attitudes and consent. Lesson 3 is called “building a team of leaders.”
Listening in the audience was Amber Anderson. She endured the type of abuse leaders hope to prevent.
"I didn't understand that I was under control of this person and it took a professional to help me identify that later and help avoid that in future relationships,” said Anderson.
Now with the goal of counseling other women, she is thankful to see this happen. This is what she would add, "It's really important for people to recognize when they start to lose a bit of themselves and when their friends and family point that out it's important to listen."
The program hits the classroom this spring.