By Susan Jerison, Director of Marketing and Communications
Yesterday, JWI was pleased to join the Family Violence Prevention Fund as a cosponsor of a briefing on Capitol Hill to mark Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and to explore why the middle school years are important in prevention efforts. The briefing was hosted by several members of Congress and attended by senior policy makers, educators, and domestic violence experts to discuss national data and strategies and to share best practices at a local level. Remarks by Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) were particular highlights; each shared personal stories about why this issue matters to them. Congressman Lewis talked about his lifelong commitment to non-violence and shared the story of April Love, an intern in his office who returned to school and was murdered by her boyfriend. Congresswoman Moore became a mother at 18 after a date rape by a “pretty nice guy.” She talked about the boy’s pressure to prove something, and her lack of someone to talk to about sex as she negotiated the teen years.
An impressive group spoke passionately about the need to work with tweens as well as teens – including Judge Susan Carbon, the director of the Office on Violence Against Women; Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education; and Dr. James Mercy, a special advisor at the Centers for Disease Control. JWI’s Youth Committee co-chair, Cantor Deborah Jacobson, of Temple Ahavat Shalom in Florida, was one of several local presenters, and talked about the role of the religious community in prevention efforts.
For those interested in getting involved in this issue, here are some takeaways:
- Middle school does matter and we should aim prevention efforts at this age group as they start to enter the adult world. These years set lifelong patterns.
- Collaboration is the key to change. DV groups, schools, counselors, religious leaders and government officials should work together to find funding and to reach teens with prevention messages. Teens should be actively involved designing these efforts.
- Schools are key partners but it often takes community resources and attention to make sure that schools are addressing this issue.
- There are many wonderful programs already taking place at the local level. Start Strong, the Men of Strength Clubs from Men Can Stop Rape, and JWI’s teen prevention programs were highlighted.
- Known Internet resources such as the CDC’s Choose Respect, Liz Claiborne’s Love is Not Abuse, and the Break the Cycle’s Love is Respect were highlighted as well as new campaign by the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Full of great graphics, video, and interactive conversations aimed at teens, That’s Not Cool aims to start a conversation about “textual harassment.”
We invite you to share your ideas and experiences.