All people have a right to healthy and safe relationships. That’s the fundamental concept of the Healthy Relationships Pilot Project that members of the Special Olympics Wisconsin community recently participated in.
Special Olympics Wisconsin was one of just four states selected by Special Olympics International to pilot this cutting-edge program created to inform and empower self-advocates by equipping them with the tools to engage in healthy relationships and communicate about boundaries and safety. Ultimately, this project aims to have a positive impact on health, knowledge, and empowerment, and prevent sexual assault and unhealthy relationships among individuals with ID.
As a truly unified program, the sessions were co-facilitated by SOWI athlete leaders, Lucas Smith of the Manitowoc County Miracles, and Brittany Wilson of Team Milwaukee. After undergoing training, they helped lead four sessions that covered topics in:
- Healthy Relationships in Special Olympics and Beyond
- Consent, Communication and Respect
- My Body Belongs to Me
- Pathway to Help
Wilson found the information in the pilot program to be critically important for her and her fellow athletes. “The athletes that Luke and I taught, they were really happy about it,” Wilson said. “Some people might not know what a healthy relationship is or how to find help if someone is mistreating them.”
Wilson and Smith, along with agency manager Kristy Bridenhagen of the Stevens Point YMCA, conveyed key messages about recognizing the difference between healthy and unhealthy friendships and professional relationships, what consent is and how it works, the importance of body autonomy, and how to leave a situation or tell someone if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
After the pilot workshops concluded, the SOWI Healthy Relationships team met with staff from Special Olympics International on June 25 to give feedback about the program.
Special Olympics International will then take the feedback from the four pilot states and update the program with the goal of having the Healthy Relationship curriculum ready for all programs to use in the fall.
While the rest of the country may have to wait a few months to put some of this important information into practice, SOWI athletes like Wilson are thankful that they were able to participate at this early stage and learn a few things that can help them in their own lives.
“Looking through the training manual I was like, ‘I can use some of this stuff with my own relationships,’” Wilson said.