WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Wichita Falls ISD officials are educating high school athletes about domestic and dating violence and the warning signs.
Monday's Time Out program at Rider High School helps J.V. and varsity football players identify the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships and get any help they may need.
Experts say domestic and dating violence happens regardless of gender; it's not just males doing the abusing. Studies show 5 million high school students in the United States will be physically abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend this year. The time out program was created specifically for athletes.
"Our athletes are big leaders on our campuses. We feel like if we can start with them and they can model these behaviors in their relationship and talk about these things with their family and at school that other kids will hopefully pick up on that."
Experts say domestic and dating violence is a growing problem in our society. The organizers of Time Out, a domestic violence awareness program, says it's not just a family issue but an epidemic like heart disease or cancer and the only way you stop it is to prevent it .
"High school is crazy. You definitely hear stories about it and it's definitely a real problem whether people think so or not"
The program is the brainchild of Jennifer Garner, a licensed professional counselor, and Wichita Falls ISD Athletic Director Scot Hafley. They have already brought the program to Hirschi and Wichita Falls High Schools and today they had the largest group yet; 120 J.V. and varsity football players at Rider High School and they say the program has been successful...
"After that first one at Old High when the boys came up and said thank you and some of them had tears in their eyes and shared some of their story. I was done.It makes everything worth it."
Counselors read abuse statistics to the teens and they talked about physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as the warning signs.
"This has become such a problem in the U.S. and it's something we want to educate our kids about. Outside the math, English, science and athletics it's just something that is important to society"
Organizers say it all boils down to respect for the other person.
"Trying to provide them positive guidance so they can be responsible husbands and fathers."
One participant says he learned a lot.
"Just to get people to act and raise awareness"