Opinion: Teen dating abuse demands attention

February 14, 2017

In this morning’s Daily Record, we teamed up with our friends and partners at Jersey Battered Women’s Service to call attention to an issue that’s both overlooked and widespread: teen dating violence.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and an opportunity to size up the challenge before us, review the critical work nonprofits are doing at the community-level, and inspire more New Jerseyans to lend a hand.

To support Jersey Battered Women’s Service with your donor advised fund, give us a call at 973-267-5533. Or donate directly on their website.

Teen dating abuse demands attention
Feb. 14, 2017

Of middle and high school students in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, 33 percent reported experiencing psychological dating abuse, 18 percent reported experiencing cyber dating abuse, 21 percent reported experiencing physical dating violence, and nine percent report experiencing sexual coercion, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Among college students, one in three women and one in six men have experienced dating abuse. Moreover, 16- to 24-year-olds are at greater risk for experiencing abuse than any other age group and the abuse can contribute to negative health effects. Victims are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, or exhibit antisocial behaviors and suicidal thoughts.

It is said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

That is why the Community Foundation of New Jersey partnered with the Jersey Battered Women’s Service’s (JBWS) newest initiative to engage teens and student athletes in awareness and leadership programs to prevent teen dating violence.

For 30 years, JBWS’ No2DatingAbuse program has been teaching students a better way through its outreach programs to area schools. When youth can recognize that the motivation to abuse is about power and control, we create a paradigm shift in their understanding. Abusers don’t “just lose control” as it appears; they use abuse to gain control. Breaking up with an abusive person does not end the abuse, but often spurs more intense abuse to regain control and shouldn’t be managed alone.

Building on its message, JBWS created the Yellow Card Challenge with philanthropic support of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, Community Health of Morristown Medical Center, several other funders, and the pro bono creative design services of Brushfire Inc.

Yellow Card engages athletes to take a stand against dating abuse by promoting a culture of safety and respect. It teaches athletes that although dating doesn’t have a playbook, it does have rules. A small yellow card (like the ones handed out in soccer, lacrosse and rugby as a warning for an egregious foul) lists the warning signs of dating abuse and is given to every student at school and team presentations.

Through these specialized team education sessions, game-day awareness activities, media campaign, and social networking, athletes are learning new attitudes and leadership skills to stand up against dating abuse and challenge the social norms that promote aggression.

Funding prevention efforts is an effective and efficient way to eradicate social problems. Yet little public or private grant funding is available for such initiatives, so launching such an initiative relies on the financial and networking support of the community. The Community Foundation of New Jersey was pleased to support the Yellow Card Challenge — and to entice its fundholders to do the same — but there is far more that can be done.

Based on pre- and post-test results, we know the Yellow Card Challenge is having a positive effect. Students and athletes report a significantly enhanced understanding of the dating abuse issue. Teens report greater knowledge about safe next steps and resources available for assistance. Students perceive coaches as knowledgeable resources in dating abuse situations and rate family members, schools and teammates far higher as reliable resources after the programming.

This month — Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month—local high school students and team athletic leaders will have the chance to engage their peers in awareness activities. These activities grew out of a countywide leadership conference this past November which was sponsored and led by JBWS and host school, Randolph High School.

The high incidence of dating violence, the lack of consistent, clear community and school response, and the high profile cases of domestic violence in the world of professional sports should motivate us all to do more—in the classroom, in the locker room, and in the community. We must all become role models and “upstanders” in preventing dating abuse.

To learn more about teen dating abuse and to arrange a presentation, visit www.No2DatingAbuse.org.

Regina Braham, Vice President, Community Relations

Jersey Battered Women’s Service

Nancy Magee, Program Officer

Community Foundation of New Jersey

Click here to read the above piece on DailyRecord.com