‘Love Shouldn’t Hurt’ in NJ schools

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 required by law in New Jersey.

West Orange High School, Columbia High School in Maplewood and Technology High School in Newark just completed one such program on Teen Dating Abuse Prevention and Awareness in their ninth-grade health classes. Students learned how to recognize signs of abuse, how to end abusive relationships, and how to develop healthy dating relationships.

The Teen Dating Abuse Awareness 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.

“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, a volunteer and past co-chairwoman. “Abuse starts slowly and is often difficult to identify in its initial stages.”

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, TDAA was designated for high school juniors. Now it is 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 approximately 3,000 teenagers. More than 50,000 students have received the program since its inception in 1992.

For more information, visit www.centerforwomenNJ.org/teen_dating_abuse.html.