CAMP ZAMA (Feb. 11, 2020) -- As Loretta Murray, director of the Camp Zama Youth Center, stood before nearly 70 teens at the beginning of the Teen Dating Violence Awareness Lock-In here Feb.. 7, she calmly announced she had deceived them all.
"Surprise, surprise! Although this is a lock-in and we're going to have fun all night long, we've also tricked you," Murray told the teens shortly after 9 p.m. "Congratulations: The first hour is going to be educational."
Although one teen groaned, a few others cheered and everyone listened as she explained they were going to break into smaller groups and rotate through five stations that would teach them about teen dating violence and the hazards of getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or using marijuana.
"It's going to be fun," Murray reassured them. "It's not 'boring' educational."
At one station in the gym, Paul Howell and Christine Coller from the Army Substance Abuse Program guided participants as they put on goggles that simulated alcohol and marijuana impairment and then tried to ride a tricycle. At another, Mel Jackson, interim Army Community Service director, led teens in acting out various teen dating violence scenarios.
Around the corner, teens painted their hands and put their handprint on a "Love is Respect" mural. Then, in two other rooms, participants watched and discussed movie clips about teen dating violence and played a Jeopardy! game with questions about teen dating violence.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and Amy Trotto, a Family Advocacy Program specialist at ACS, said the idea behind the teen dating violence stations was to get teens thinking about day-to-day encounters they might have and how to handle them.
"We are also going to address domestic violence via electronic means: texting, sexting, cyberbullying," Trotto said. "We're going to look at those types of things as well, which are up and coming within the teen population."
Stan Austin, manager of the Family Advocacy Program, said the idea was to teach teens about domestic violence issues so they could intervene in situations they see among their peers, as well as to build up knowledge and skills they can use throughout their lives.
"Domestic violence is an issue across the country, across the military, wherever we go," Austin said, "and it doesn't start with adults just automatically doing it; it's behavior that's learned."
The goal is to teach people when they are young how to stop domestic violence, Austin said, whether it's in their own relationships or the relationships of others.
Murray said the lock-in would last until 7 a.m., and after the educational hour, teens could watch movies, dance to a live DJ and go to the nearby Camp Zama Bowling Center for cosmic bowling, among other activities.
In addition, the center's Keystone Club, a leadership development club for teens, sponsored the event to provide raffle prizes that included gift cards, speakers, hoodies and more, Murray said.
Although the center usually holds lock-ins a few times a year, Murray said, this was the first in honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Teens who attended the event said they did, indeed, have fun--even during the educational portion.
Aaron Ellis, 15, said he enjoyed painting his hand and putting his handprint on the mural, as well as trying to ride a tricycle while wearing the impairment goggles.
This was his first lock-in, Ellis said, and he came mostly because he wanted to hang out with his friends and have something to do.
Likewise, Benjamin Chapman, 12, said he liked riding the tricycles with the goggles, even though it was difficult.
"This is my first lock-in," Chapman said as he waited to rotate to another station. "I like coming to the teen center and I thought the lock-in would be fun here. It's pretty fun."