Monday, November 24, 2014

$20K grant targets teen abuse by 'first love'

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 10/30/2013

LAWRENCE — A $20,000 grant from the Mary Kay Foundation is expected to help combat teen dating violence.

“We’re overjoyed, of course, for Mary Kay to recognize the Willow [Domestic Violence Center] in this way,” Joan Schultz, the Willow center’s executive director, said. “The Mary Kay foundation is focused on domestic violence and elimination of domestic and relationship violence.”

LAWRENCE — A $20,000 grant from the Mary Kay Foundation is expected to help combat teen dating violence.

“We’re overjoyed, of course, for Mary Kay to recognize the Willow [Domestic Violence Center] in this way,” Joan Schultz, the Willow center’s executive director, said. “The Mary Kay foundation is focused on domestic violence and elimination of domestic and relationship violence.”

The Willow center, which serves Franklin County residents, was one of 150 domestic violence shelters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to receive the grant, according to a press release.

“This grant from them will allow the Willow to expand our teen dating violence program,” Schultz said. “We’re going to step up our efforts to expand our presence in middle and high schools.”

The teen dating violence program, or SAFE, isn’t just aimed at girls in relationships, Schultz said.

“One in three teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 will report some sort of relationship violence,” she said. “That’s males and females.”

The grant also is expected to go toward maintaining critical services and programs for individuals who are survivors of domestic abuse, as well as for building awareness and uniting communities by ending domestic violence, Schultz said.

“We’re also working on a stepping up our efforts to engage athletic coaches to let us come and talk to their [male] players about teen dating violence,” she said. “Plus, we are stepping up efforts to find male volunteers to work with the boys because men want to talk to men.”

The center, operating for the past 37 years, has expanded beyond crisis intervention services by presenting such prevention programs as SAFE, which focuses on teen dating violence prevention and anti-violence messaging, Shultz said.

“All of the same characteristics of teen dating violence fall into domestic violence,” she said. “If we can educate teens, we think it’s truly a prevention. There’s no one more special than that first love, and if that first love is violent or aggressive, it sets the stage.”

The Willow center served 543 students last semester in the three-county area of Douglas, Franklin and Jefferson counties, Shultz said, but with the grant money, the Willow center is hoping to reach more.

“We like to speak to classrooms because the smaller the group, the more open the teens can be,” she said.

As a non-profit agency, the Willow Domestic Violence Center relies on the charity of others to continue to provide free services and support to women and children affected by domestic violence, she said.

“We’re just so darned happy,” Schultz said. “We can’t thank Mary Kay enough in their efforts and they’ve been very generous to domestic violence since the inception of its programs.”

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