The story of 15-year old Megan Stammers going missing with her 30-year old Maths teacher has been widely covered in the news media over the past week or so, and reinforces for us at The Star Project just how important our work is with young people. Star Project is the education and outreach initiative from Southampton Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service. We work with approximately 7,000 of the city’s young people, delivering ‘healthy relationships’ workshops as well as raising awareness of issues of rape , sexual abuse and sources of support.
Out of all of the activities that we use in our interactive workshops, “The OK/ Not OK Game” is by far the most effective in opening up discussion. One of the scenarios we ask young people about is whether it is ok or not for a young person to have a relationship with a professional (such as teacher, youth worker etc). Whilst some young people realise the inappropriateness of such relationships straight away - “He’s in a position of trust – it’s just wrong!” for some young people, their responses highlight vulnerabilities and confusion about dealing with attention from sources which are a cause for concern.
As with all such scenarios, when we introduce them to young people, the discussions generated are powerfully thought-provoking, helping the groups to explore the issue in great detail and addressing the assumptions we may hold about these situations. We would also use the activity to clarify the legal perspective on such a relationship - for those who may not see a 15-year old and a 30-year old in a relationship as ‘not ok’.
We can only hope that Megan is afforded time and space to adjust to what has happened and helped to cope with her feelings around it. For the rest of us it seems a good opportunity to examine how this happened, what the issues are for young people and how we can support them to look at relationships and their emotional responses to perceived attachments. This is the work that The Star Project does week in-week out in Southampton, and clearly may have been of benefit elsewhere in the UK. The Star Project Team