Operation Lighthouse wants to prevent teen dating violence

Operation Lighthouse is a teen dating violence prevention program founded two years ago as a Mercer University Honors Scholar project. Students in Operation Lighthouse teach Macon teenagers about recognizing the signs and putting a stop to dating violence.

This year, Operation Lighthouse is including boys in its curriculum. Current director Danielle Countryman said boys should know they can be victims of intimate partner violence.

“We should not back away from trying to teach boys about intimate partner violence as something that yes, does happen more prevalently with females but yes, can also happen to boys,” Countryman said.

Countryman said that Operation Lighthouse could help break the stigma by including boys.

“It’s to put down the whole stereotype that guys can’t cry or guys can’t be vulnerable in these types of situations,” Countryman said.

Avery Towns, a nursing student at Mercer University, volunteered to lead the new male-focused curriculum. He said he aims to make people talk about boys being victims.

“Everyone’s afraid to talk about it. I think once that barrier is broken down… It’ll be less of a, ‘How did this happen, why did this happen?’ and more of an, ‘Okay, steps to prevent this happening in the future,’” Towns said.

Towns said working with teenagers can be intimidating, but he has found success by treating them with empathy and support.

“No matter what they take from the experience, we want them to feel like they have a healthy way out,” Towns said.

Countryman said addressing dating violence in high school can prevent it from becoming a larger issue later in life.

“That’s something really important in the teenage community because they’re kind of bypassed on dating violence. You don’t really hear about dating violence until you become older or really experienced,” Countryman said.

Operation Lighthouse currently works in Central High School. Students can voluntarily stay after the day ends for two hours of instruction and activiti