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The front door of the Collegium features a sign reading: “take care of yourself, take care of each other, take care of this place. “So, a few days ago, when I noticed two teens were sitting out on the Collegium patio one afternoon, teasing and being very physically aggressive with each other, I stopped for a second glance. They appeared to be boyfriend/girlfriend. I might have passed it off as a passing spat, except that the week prior to this, our community had suffered a tragic case of domestic violence. It occurred to me that right in front of my eyes, this couple was duplicating domestic violence with their behavior. They were hitting each other, using force to overpower each other while at the same time they also seemed to be trying to have a cozy time. Our other major concern was the fact that they were being closely watched by younger kids who also seemed to be a little uncomfortable with what was happening. In light of that, a female colleague and I decided to go out and talk to them. We told them we were a little concerned by the way they were behaving in the Collegium as their actions depicted a situation that exemplified domestic violence. We also told them that there were many youngsters who were watching them, who were also feeling uncomfortable. If they were treating each other this way in broad daylight in public, we wondered what they might do when behind closed doors. And so, we decided to invade their privacy in the hopes that we might be preventing future violence and even possible loss of life.

The young couple kept nodding their heads as if to say that they agreed to what we were telling them. I work extensively with children and it is amazing to know that these kids are trying to get into intimate relationships at such an early stage of their lives. At a time where they probably would be doing well to concentrate on school and community based extra- curricular activities, many kids seem to be way more drawn to whoever will show them some attention, even if it hurts!  This is not love! Most of the time its’ a fascination and a behavior that is being hugely influenced by peer pressure, social media or more often, just feeling lonely and desperately looking for signs that they are wanted.

This is why the Collegium desires to offer safe space in which kids and adults can feel at home with mutual respect for each other, without worry of being bullied or excluded. As a third place, this is our commitment as we seek to nurture flourishing communities.