Every high school graduate has been exposed to dating violence, whether she knows it or not. I, too, was an uninformed witness, conscious that the unhealthy relationships of my peers were wrong – but in my community, no one talked about dating violence.
The first time I understood that relationship abuse was a studied phenomenon was the summer after my second year of college, as an intern with JWI. I worked under two incredible women who revealed the suffering being silenced by a Jewish communal sense of shame and fear of judgment. I hadn’t realized how many women, young and old, were trapped in an unrelenting cycle of violence.
A principal responsibility of my internship was marketing JWI’s dating violence program When Push Comes to Shove… It’s No Longer Love to the campus Hillels and Jewish youth groups in the area. I remember pitching the program to my former youth director, my impassioned description drawing an audience of listeners in the coffee shop. I’ll never forget her response: “We have good kids at our synagogue. It is nice what you are doing, but dating violence does not occur. We don’t need this program.” I gave examples of incidents happening under her watch and explained that dating violence could manifest as emotional degradation, physiological control, and/or physical acts. As she got up to leave, I said that I wished someone had talked about healthy relationships with me and had told me to believe in my self-worth when I was in high school.
Dating violence still happens in my community.
Programs like the Push curriculum have a dual purpose – to raise awareness about the issue, and to prevent young women from becoming victims. My youth director never understood this.
This summer I rejoined the JWI team because they believe all women and girls have the right to thrive in healthy relationships, live in safe homes, and know the full potential of their personal strength.
As JWI expands its lobbying and other advocacy efforts, I’ll be blogging here to share the work, and hopefully spur each reader to become an advocate too. I encourage you – I invite you – to stay informed, stand your ground and use your voice!
JWI Advocacy and Grassroots Coordinator