A lesson plan to go with: “He seemed like the perfect boyfriend …” an interview with a Los Angeles teenager whose boyfriend beat her by Julissa Espinoza and Christy Buena, published March-April 2000

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies, Health
Suggested Time Allowance: 45 minutes-1 hour

Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students will discuss violence in relationships and explore how to recognize it, prevent it, and stop it.

Students will:
• Discuss violence and abuse in dating and family relationships, and how to recognize an abusive relationship.
• Explore attitudes about proper or healthy behavior in close relationships and where they come from.
• Discuss ways to avoid and get out of unhealthy relationships.

• copies of “He seemed like the perfect boyfriend” (one per student)
• pens/pencils
• paper
• newsprint
• markers
• classroom chalkboard

1. Warm-up: In journals or on separate pieces of paper, students respond to the prompt on the board: Describe the perfect parent, sibling, best friend, or partner. Exclude physical characteristics—focus on the qualities, attitudes, or beliefs which would make this person a perfect _____ to you.

The teacher then asks students to name some of these characteristics, which the teacher writes on the board. (Students can exclude the nature of the relationship about which they wrote, if they wish, naming only the characteristics.)

2. As a class, read “He seemed like the perfect boyfriend.” Then discuss the article, addressing these questions:
    a. Why would Mark and Dolores’ relationship be called an abusive one? What are different forms of abuse that can occur in relationships?

    b. What did Mark do to Dolores? Why do you think he did what he did?

    c. When and why did Dolores finally leave Mark?

    d. Why do you think Dolores stayed with Mark so long? Why would someone stay in an abusive relationship? What would make it hard to tell others about it and get help?

    e. What would have made it easier for her to get out of the relationship earlier? Why did these things not happen?

    f. The article cites a study that says that “28 percent of students experienced violence in a relationship.” Does this surprise you? Why or why not? Do you believe this? Why or why not?

3. Divide students in small single-gender groups of around 4. Each group receives newsprint and markers to record a discussion of the following questions written on the board: What are the characteristics of a healthy relationship? How did you learn this? How are you as a _____ (female or male) supposed to act in the following kinds of relationships: mother/child, father/child, sibling, romantic relationship? How did you learn this? How do you want to act and/or be treated in these same types of relationships? Are there discrepancies between these lists of characteristics? How do you move from the first list to the second list?

4. Each group presents its newsprint to the class, females first. The class is asked not to interrupt each presentation, but to ask respectful questions of the entire class only at the end of all presentations. How did this exercise make students feel?

5. Wrap-up/homework: Most people do not think of themselves as being capable of being an abuser or a victim in an abusive relationship. Reflecting on the in-class discussion and the small-group exercise, write an essay describing your vision of a healthy romantic or familial relationship. How does this vision conform to or differ from the traditional characteristics you discussed in your small groups? How did you develop this vision? What steps or actions should you take in order to ensure that you avoid becoming either an abuser or a victim in an abusive relationship?

Further Questions for Discussion:
• How do we try to change the attitudes of people who think it is all right to abuse their partners or family members? Is it possible?

• How do we educate people, especially young women, about their rights and about recognized healthy versus unhealthy relationships?

Students will be evaluated on their participation in discussion and their individual written work.

Extension Activities:
• Research social services available in your community for victims of abusive relationships. What do they do? How widely publicized are they? What kind of help from volunteers or concerned community members do they need?

• Research methods of peer counseling and mediation, and develop a plan for implementing such a program at your school.