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Program reaches out to teens, says love shouldn't hurt
Volunteers with the Teen Dating Abuse Prevention Project have one message for students: Love shouldn't hurt.
But for one in three teenagers, it does.
"Approximately one of every three teenagers will experience an abusive dating relationship by the time they graduate from high school or college," said Nancy Eisenman, vice president of community service for National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Columbus Section.
Eisenman is spearheading a project through the organization's Teen Dating Abuse Prevention Project that educates students on ways to identify dating abuse and how to stop it. The program is called "Love Shouldn't Hurt."
During the past year and a half, NCJW has trained volunteers who have delivered presentations to more than 1,500 teenagers in area school districts, including Reynoldsburg and Bexley.
The presentation includes videos and interactive discussions.
"We educate teens in the health classes and we talk about the different types of abuse: emotional, verbal, physical and sexual," Eisenman said. "We give the students some startling statistics."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 percent of U.S. students reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the previous year.
Technology, such as cell phones and the Internet, have created new ways for students to be intimidated or harassed without their parents' knowledge, Eisenman said.
"We explain to the teens that these relationships don't start off being abusive and so they need to know the warning signs," she said.
The project stresses to students that abusive relationships are about power and control - not love, she said.
"We tell the kids it's not their fault if they find themselves in this type of relationship," Eisenman said. "The abuser chooses to behave this way. You can't change them unless they want to get some help."
Dave Gustin, a health teacher at Bexley High School, said the presentation encouraged the students to have conversations with one another about their actions and the actions of others.
"Some tough topics were covered that made the students think about their actions to certain situations or lack of reaction," he said. "It was a good time for students to stop and think of how they treat each other and the importance of thinking through how to react with each other."
Students are given a pocket size resource card with the National Teen Dating Abuse 24/7 Helpline and the Web site, loveisrespect.org.
"We also give them some tips as to how to help a friend who may be in an abusive relationship," Eisenman said. "We talk about how to break up safely, how to talk to a friend who is the abuser. We tell them that keeping silent will just perpetuate these types of relationships and they will continue to get worse."
For more information on the program, go to www.loveisrespect.org.
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