Our Early Intervention Prevention team in Bankstown will deliver school-based domestic and family violence and sexual assault prevention program ‘Love Bites’ for a fourth year thanks to a grant from Clubs NSW.

The Bankstown team was officially presented funding in late-August, with Mission Australia announced as the leading agency of the program. The grant has also provided training to 15 new facilitators each year in order to keep the program sustainable.

Love Bites was designed by the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) for high school students in years 9 and 10. It aims to raise awareness about the prevalence and forms of domestic and family violence and sexual assault, and also looks to promote respectful relationships.

Mission Australia Adolescent and Family Caseworker Kassie Paice says many young people are unclear about what domestic violence involves.

"A lot of the young people we meet in schools think physical abuse is the only form of domestic violence. They don't realise that violence can occur in different ways, whether that be emotional, spiritual or financial," Kassie explains.

Kassie and her co-worker Joanne Shastri lead a collaborative interagency team of eight staff at each school visit. The program has been received positively by schools, who are asked to provide an expression of their interest to run the program each year.

The program consists of two interactive education workshops on domestic and family violence and sexual assault followed by sessions that consolidate the information from the morning. Students are given the opportunity to creatively express what they've learnt through painting or writing a rap song. Their domestic violence prevention themed work is then showcased by the students at their schools on White Ribbon Day in November.

In the five years the program has been running, it has been adapted to meet the changing needs of young people.

"An important change has been the inclusion of a session about using technology to share sexually explicit content in relationships. The students are often quite surprised by the laws that exist around sexting," Kassie said.

To date, more than 100,000 high school students throughout Australia have participated in the Love Bites program and over 4,000 educators have been trained to conduct the workshop in NSW alone.

"It's a privilege to be able to facilitate this program for young people and empower them to recognise the signs of domestic and family violence, and to know when a friend or family member may be involved in an unsafe relationship and understand how to best support them," Kassie said.

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