When choosing the project issue for her Girl Scout Gold Award, Girl Scout Meghan wanted to focus on an issue that everyone is impacted by or at least hears about, but is rarely talked about openly: dating violence.
“Domestic violence and dating safety is a big deal and it impacts most communities, but people rarely talk about it openly,” Meghan said. She said she heard about a relative of a girl in her community who was killed as a result of an abusive relationship, which made her want to bring the issue out into the open.
“You hear about it all the time in the media–news stories about violent altercations between couples and sometimes it ends in tragedy. In music you’ll hear words and lyrics that portray violence against women as okay or say it’s okay for women to be treated a certain way–and that’s not okay. I think it’s something we need to bring out in the open and talk about,” she said.
Elizabeth set out to spread the word about dating violence through Project A.L.E.R.T.–Awareness Lets Everyone Realize Trouble. Working with the Howard County Police Department and the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County, she created a brochure that outlines the warning signs of abuse, and what an individual should do if they find themselves or a friend in an abusive relationship, which will be available at all Howard County high schools. She also held a free seminar on teen dating violence and healthy relationships with the Domestic Violence Unit of HCPD and the DVC of Howard County.
“A lot of schools and health classes tend to avoid the subject of dating violence–it’s touchy and can get graphic,” Meghan said. “But I wanted everyone that came in contact with my project to understand that it’s okay to talk about and it’s important to arm yourself with the information so you can recognize the signs and protect yourself and know who to reach out to.”
Meghan said she met her share of challenges while trying to pull together the project and had to make people understand what she was trying to accomplish, understand the importance of her topic and work with people who were uncomfortable talking about dating violence openly.
“You really have to dig down and get past that to talk about subjects like this,” she said. “But I learned I do have the power to go out there and do something to inspire people–help people understand something bigger than themselves.”
Meghan is one of 138 central Maryland Girl Scout Gold Award recipients that will be honored April 15 at the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland Gold Award Banquet.