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Time to take a stand

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Many adults are unaware teens experience dating violence. Last year, Associate Professor Judy Caprez from the Fort Hays State University social work program wrote a thorough series for The Hays Daily News regarding the growing problem.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 9.4 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey. Approximately one in five women and nearly one in seven men who experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age (CDC, 2010)

Last year, we were honored to be invited to speak to all eighth-graders at Hays Middle School. We commend the school for understanding the importance of talking to their students about healthy -- and unhealthy -- relationships. This past fall, Thomas More Prep-Marian High School football coach John Montgomery implemented the nationally recognized program Coaching Boys into Men with his squad. The program helps young men recognize the important role they play in building healthy relationships. Last month, many Hays High School and Hays Middle School athletic coaches were trained on the CMIM program. Additionally, we now are working with area teachers who are integrating our new Love Doesn't Hurt program into their academic classrooms.

Teens who suffer dating violence are at risk for continued difficulties through school, such as depression or alcohol and drugs. Victims also are at greater risk of experiencing the same patterns of violence later in life. We, as a community, have a responsibility to make dating violence an act that is not tolerated -- anytime, anywhere. We are thrilled Hays and surrounding communities recognize this is a social issue that can be eradicated, and are willing to do the work involved in that process.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, join us at Hays Arts Council as we celebrate another way area students have gotten involved in reducing gender-based violence. Jana's Campaign has partnered with Hays Arts Council and a Namibia, Africa, non-profit that also works to reduce gender violence.

"In the Name of Love" is an art exhibition organized by a team of FHSU leadership students and seeks to bring awareness of gender-based violence. The exhibit features art created by African artists, as well as students from Hays Middle School, TMP and FHSU.

Throughout February and beyond, join us in our continual efforts to educate and raise awareness about this hidden social disease.

Curt and Christie Brungardt are

co-founders of Jana's Campaign Inc.