The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex (NCJW/Essex) launched “Crossing the Line,” a new educational video on teen dating abuse awareness and prevention. The video is the most recent addition to its pioneering Teen Dating Abuse (TDA) program, a comprehensive cost-free classroom experience for high school students that since its inception in 1992 has reached more than 50,000 Essex County teens to help prevent them from entering into or remaining in abusive dating relationships. The video was funded by a grant from The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.
The Crossing the Line video, an updated version of the award-winning video entitled “Matters of Choice,” features such revisions as the role of digital technology in dating abuse insuring the program remains relevant and effective for today’s teens. An integral program element, the video serves as a vital tool to help facilitators bring the program to life for teens in a realistic and relatable manner. In reality television style, the viewer follows the evolution of a “real-life” relationship using their daily interaction to illustrate the vital lessons of teen dating abuse identification and prevention. Specific topics include identifying warning signs, communicating with friends and ending an abusive relationship.
“New to the dynamics of dating, most teens are naïve to the subtle signs of abuse making them particularly vulnerable,” said Diane Beni, NCJW/Essex co-chair of the video production. “Far beyond the overt slap, abuse is about gaining control through verbal, emotional or physical means and all are equally damaging.”
A largely silent epidemic, the TDA program is designed to address the frightening facts that one in three adolescents who has been in a dating relationship has experienced verbal or physical abuse from a dating partner, and that nearly 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused continue to date their abusive partner.
The uniquely comprehensive program takes a three-pronged approach that engages all issue stakeholders including teens, parents and educators. For teens, trained dating-abuse educators conduct the two-period workshops in high school health classes. Students learn how to recognize signs of abuse, how to end abusive relationships, and how to develop healthy dating relationships. In addition, TDA runs a program for parent and community groups called “Teen Dating: the Untold Story.” Completing the circle, workshops for educators can be presented in conjunction with staff development days. Participants are eligible for CEUs. The program fulfills the N.J. Department of Education requirement to incorporate dating violence education into the health curriculum.
“The Teen Dating Abuse program has been extremely beneficial for Columbia High School students,” said Lisa Delli Santi, Columbia High School teacher and advisor to its teen dating abuse council. “I strongly believe that awareness is the most powerful weapon against this serious problem.”
“Learning about dating abuse has definitely affected my thinking in a positive way,” said Jane Mousseau, senior at Columbia High School and Co-president of its Teen Dating Abuse Club. “I now want everyone to realize their own self worth and know that tolerating dating abuse as a victim, perpetrator, or witness is never an option.” She is a trained TDA program presenter who has been presenting to middle school students for three years.
“We are extremely pleased to support a program that aims to break the destructive dating abuse cycle by talking to kids in a way they can understand” said Marsha Atkind, Executive Director, The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. “I consider educating high school students about the issue to be a vital investment in the future of our next generation.”
The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey is an independent, endowed grant-making organization dedicated to reducing disparities in the delivery of healthcare and improving access to quality healthcare for vulnerable populations in the greater Newark area and the Jewish community of MetroWest, New Jersey.
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