IN THE NEWS: JFS Starts Teen Dating Violence Program

Randall Lieberman

Jewish Journal (subscription required)

Oct 23, 2015

Teen Advocates at their first TARA meeting along with facilitator, Aliza Schulman, LCSW, JFS Domestic Abuse Education and Action Program Coordinator.

The topic of relationship abuse and dating violence among teens is currently a hot-button issue and local social-service agencies are paying attention.

For example, Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) — the Boca Raton-based Jewish social services agency — will implement a new and important program called TARA (Teens Against Relationship Abuse) starting Oct. 29.

The objective of this program is for teens to educate, refer and intervene with other teens when they recognize abusive behaviors and to increase bystander intervention when abuse occurs.

Danielle Hartman, JFS president and CEO, commented: "Adolescents and adults are often unaware that teens experience dating violence. One in three girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from one of their dating partners — a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence."

Hartman continued: "It is important for us at JFS to help address this issue. Teen dating violence causes severe trauma for victims. Teens who suffer dating abuse are subject to long-term consequences like alcoholism, eating disorders, promiscuity and thoughts of suicide."

TARA is kicking off in October to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month and is part of the JFS Domestic Abuse Education and Action Program.

As part of TARA, selected teenagers will serve as Teen Advocates.

These advocates have committed to attending a training class which will cover the following topics:

•Healthy versus unhealthy relationships;

•Signs of dating abuse;

•Peer and bystander intervention; and

•Help for the abuser.

In addition to the training class, advocates will attend group meetings three times per year. The program had 25 applicants for 15 spots, and candidates were submitted from a broad spectrum of the community — including students from both public and private schools.

The goal of the program is to provide a safe, open forum for teens to talk about abuse and get answers to often unspoken questions.

The program is being supervised by Aliza Schulman, JFS Domestic Abuse Education and Action Program coordinator. Schulman is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 20 years of experience working in the field.

Schulman said: "It is imperative to educate our adolescents about the warning signs and prevalence of verbal, emotional, physical and sexual dating abuse. Technology also is also being misused to intimidate and control others.

"TARA will provide interactive, engaging, thought-provoking workshops to educate teens about these issues and teach them when and how to intervene."

For more information about this program, contact Schulman at alizas@ralesjfs.org or 561-852-3333.

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