Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 12, 2011

Ahead of the curve

Area Girl Scouts long involved with domestic violence prevention

Katie Brandenburg
The Independent

ASHLAND — When Kentucky’s Girl Scout Councils announce a collaboration with the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association next week, they’ll be following in the footsteps of Girl Scouts in the Ashland area.

Che-Hona Miller, membership center director for the Ken-o-Valley and Jenny Wiley Territory, said Scouts in the Ashland area have been involved in projects with Safe Harbor of Northeastern Kentucky since 2005.

Safe Harbor is an emergency shelter and advocacy center for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Lawrence and Elliott counties.

Aimee Johnson, 17, is president of the Girl Scout’s Ken-o-Valley Teen Leadership Council, which has been working with Safe Harbor since she was in the eighth grade.

The TLC put together a Christmas donation drive that year, gathering personal items for the women there and toys and books for the children, she said.

“It was really amazing the comments we got from the parents because they were telling us that, thanks to  this, their kids believed in Santa again,” Johnson said.

She said the experience helped her to appreciate the things she has.

“They don’t even begin to think about the things that we have,” Johnson said.

Because of that need, she said the TLC is taking any opportunity it can to help with Safe Harbor.

Domestic violence is also an issue that Johnson’s Girl Scout group, Troop 928, is taking on. The troop designed banners that will hang at Russell and Paul G. Blazer high schools encouraging victims of domestic violence to get out of their situations and seek help.

Johnson said she thinks some  students in her school see domestic violence at home and accept it as normal. The goal of the banners is to let them know it isn’t normal and help is available.

“It’s really sad to know that we have peers that are already dealing with this situation, and they’re not even adults,” she said.

Area Girl Scouts have been involved in multiple projects at Safe Harbor, such as decorating a room in one of the Harbor Hills apartments for a young girl, Miller said. One senior Girl Scout helped create a teen room at Safe Harbor to earn her gold award, considered the highest achievement in Girl Scouts.

She said the partnership has been beneficial to the girls.

“They were getting more from Safe Harbor and from the residents there than what they were able to give,” she said.

Some Girl Scouts in the area have also earned a domestic violence awareness badge. The girls learn to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy actions in both romantic relationships and friendships, Miller said. They also share that knowledge with friends and classmates.

“We want our girls to grow to be strong women,” she said.

Miller said that, with the collaboration between Kentucky Girl Scouts and KDVA, troops will begin participating in a program called the Green Dot Bystander Intervention Program.

The program was developed by Dorothy J. Edwards, founding director of the University of Kentucky Violence Intervention and Prevention Center. It is an approach to violence prevention with an emphasis on establishing intolerance to violence as the norm, according to the website livethegreendot.com.

As part of the collaboration, Kentucky Girl Scouts will also be working on Shop and Share, Kentucky first lady Jane Beshear’s annual donation drive for domestic violence shelter, fostering new Girl Scout/KDVA shelter programs connections throughout Kentucky communities and developing workshops for Girl Scouts on issues compelling to today’s adolescents and teens, according to a press release from the Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Council.

The collaboration will be officially announced at a press conference a the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday.

KATIEā€ˆBRANDENBURG can be reached at kbrandenburg@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.