Jewish teens and dating
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There are teenagers who have the capacity to do something about this problem.They just need to learn how to help a friend or themselves.” Three years ago, JF&CS developed the Teen Safe program, with funding from the Boston Jewish Community Women’s Fund, and recruited a group of girls to reach out to their peers to educate them about the warning signs of an abusive relationship.
Although Berkowitz reports that some teenagers still challenge what they learn at a workshop, many others come up to her or the teen leaders afterward and say, “I’m thinking more about the situation I’m in and looking at it in a different way.” “Ultimately, I’ve noticed a shift in what people think of as abuse,” said Berkowitz, “which is actually any kind of controlling behavior.“I feel strongly about women’s rights, especially the right to your own body and to your happiness.” Hannah spent a year going through monthly trainings, which helped her learn the warning signs of abuse and further developed her leadership skills.The trainings are led by Sara Berkowitz, JF&CS youth educator and Teen Safe adviser.A teen leader’s mother responded to the survey by writing, “The Teen Safe project offers my daughter a place to learn about healthy relationships and female empowerment in an informal and fun setting with other girls of the same age.I highly recommend this program for every Jewish high school girl.That’s the shift we’re trying to teach and what people are picking up on.” So far, 32 girls have been trained as leaders, and 691 teens have attended Teen Safe workshops on topics of healthy relationships and teen dating abuse.
In addition, 287 parents, teachers and youth advisers have attended peer leader presentations or consulted with staff about integrating the Teen Safe program into their curriculum or addressing teen dating abuse in their school or organization’s policies and procedures.
“Prevention is core to our mission,” said Schon Vainer.
Teen Safe is a leadership development program for Jewish high school girls with two integrated goals: 1) preventing domestic abuse by reaching young people before and during their first dating experiences and 2) cultivating leadership skills and confidence among young women in the Jewish community, preparing them to become leaders of social change.
“These girls go from being participants to becoming facilitators and role models for other teens,” said Berkowitz. They’re passionate about this.” When she first joined Teen Safe, Hannah was not aware of dating abuse.
“But as I got older and lived through high school, I learned how to spot an abusive relationship,” she said.
Hannah Hiam of Newton, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Gann Academy, has been an active participant in Teen Safe for three years.