Health class gets lesson in ‘safe dating’

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Does your teenager know the warning signs of an abusive relationship? One in three teens experience verbal or physical abuse from a dating partner. This statistic is the reason that “safe dating” education is now required by law in New Jersey.

One such program took place November 16 and 17 at Belleville High School where students in ninth-grade health classes took part in a two-day program on teen dating abuse prevention and awareness. Students learned how to recognize signs of abuse, how to end abusive relationships, and how to develop healthy dating relationships.

“Our goal is to build awareness for teens to prevent them from getting involved in an abusive relationship, and how to safely end the relationship,” said Cindy Charney, one of the program’s co-chairwomen.

“Abuse starts slowly and is often difficult to identify in its initial stages.”
The teen dating abuse program is sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women Essex County Section, which, for more than 20 years, has been providing the classroom program free of charge in suburban and urban Essex County high schools. The program dispatches trained dating-abuse educators to conduct the workshops in high school health classes.

The NCJW Teen Dating Abuse program fulfills the new N.J. Department of Education requirement to incorporate dating violence education into the health curriculum. In the early years, the TDA program was designated for high school juniors.
Now it’s primarily presented to freshman classes because teens are maturing earlier, and the problem is happening at younger ages. In recent years, the curriculum has been updated to include information about the use of texting, social networking sites, and other digital technologies in dating abuse.

This year, more than 60 trained volunteers have presented the program to about 3,000 teenagers. More than 50,000 students have received the program since its inception in 1992.

TDA also runs a program for parent and community groups.
For information about the program call the NCJW office at 973-740-0588.