NORMAN — Fifty percent of all rapes come before the age of 18. That was a statistic that stayed in the back of Norman police Sgt. Robert “Bob” Moore’s mind as he and others developed a program to combat that statistic.
My Body … My Life … Empowering Women Through Awareness, Education, Violence Prevention and Self-defense Techniques started 20 years ago to address some of the inappropriate relationships high school girls were involved in.
Moore said at that time, Norman police worked at Norman Public Schools and he got to know many of the students, staff and faculty. The principal of Norman High School at the time, Dan Quinn, asked Moore to develop a program that would focus on rape and violence prevention as well as self-defense for the young women.
Over the years, the program was then tweaked and developed for women of all ages, from 13 to 93.
“We want to protect as many women as we can,” Moore said.
The program is now divided into 10 segments: introduction, awareness, empowerment, relationships, self-esteem and abuse, alcohol and drugs, date-acquaintance rape, violent rape, cyber cautions and closure.
Stemming from the women’s program the Moore also developed a men’s program called REAL Men (Relationship Education and Awareness for Life). Moore said males are not taught self-defense techniques in this program, but instead focuses on respect and sympathizing with women.
While men are predominately the predators in these situations, they can also be victims too, he said. The men’s program mainly enables men to be better suited to understand violence against women and why they should communicate and be empathetic to women, Moore said.
The programs are taught in every middle school and high school in Norman, as well as in the Moore-Norman Technology Center. It is also taught to University of Oklahoma sororities and student groups as well as women’s organizations, clubs, church groups and businesses in and around Norman.
Officers teach two to three sororities a year, but Moore said he wishes there were more adult women wanting to go through the program.
A day-long class is offered every month in Norman. Moore said officers will also go out and teach the program if a group of women are interested. There must be at least 15 people participating to make it viable for officers.
“Our favorite classes are mother-daughter classes,” Moore said, adding that it helps reconnect children with their parents.
Many young girls tell their 15-year-old peers about relationships or situations and their peers don’t always give the best advice because they don’t know how to appropriately handle some situations, he said.
The police department can also do presentations about the program for those interested.
“It’s all optional. We don’t force anyone to take the program,” he said.
The problem they face in schools many times is that children do not tell their parents the program is available, Moore said.
However, the program still reaches more young women than it does adults. Last year over 1,000 boys and girls went through the program, and this year the schools came back with double the request, Moore said.
Today the program is being nationally recognized. In February, Moore will visit Alaska to teach a large group of young women the program. During the visit, several Alaskan law enforcement agencies will be observing and learning about the program in order to continue educating women in their state.
The program was recently recognized with the 2013 National School Safety Award. It has also received recognition from the Governor and the State House of Representatives.
It is Moore’s hope that they continue to branch out so other women have the opportunity to go through the program. It is currently taught in Nevada after UNLV and the Las Vegas Police Department became interested in the program.
A school for the deaf and blind in Florida has also taken interest in the program. Moore said they’re looking at putting together transcriptions so those who are blind can read Braille and do sign language for those who are deaf.
“They can still do what we teach,” Moore said.
He said he’s going to let the program get as big as it can to help as many women as possible.
“I started here 30 years ago and one of the first questions always asked by the board is ‘why do you want to be a cop?’ My answer’s real simple. I want to make a difference. This makes a difference. If I can affect one girl in one class than I’ve made a difference and to me that’s what it’s all about,” Moore said.
The next My Body, My Life class being offered in Norman is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Norman Regional hospital Education Facility, 901 N. Porter Avenue. It is available to the first 25 women, age 18 years or older, on a first come, first served basis.
To register contact Sgt. Jennifer Newell by calling 366-5267 or email her at Jennifer.Newell@NormanOK
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