Last Thursday at Miami Beach Senior High, Hebrew Academy Senior Sara Fuchs organized a program “It’s Never Okay: Recognizing, Reporting, and Stopping Teen Dating Violence.” The evening featured a panel led by psychologist Ronda Fuchs, Miami Beach Police Detective Lt. Jay Burger, and Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Christina DiRaimondo, with follow-up questions from students, parents, and other community members.
“I came up with the idea when the Miami Beach Commission for Women members were discussing our annual domestic violence awareness outreach event,” Fuchs said. “It made me think: why isn’t there a similar program to help teenagers in our community?”
The event drew over 300 students, six times the number expected to attend. The attendance was so high that many students had to stand for the duration of the discussion because all the seats were taken.
The panel discussed what a teen can do if he or she is experiencing dating violence. Dating violence can range from stalking, to verbal abuse, to physical or sexual abuse in the context of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Speakers also explained how parents can recognize signs and address the problem if their child is a victim. The police and district assistant state attorney told the audience about the consequences for perpetrators and offered resources for victims of dating violence.
“It was an amazing turnout and great to see such a wide audience willing to educate themselves on issues applicable to teens and even adults,” said Rina Factor, a home-schooled student who is graduating this year.
The speakers patiently addressed each question in the room, suggesting new ways to tackle the problems. One person asked, “How do pollsters get the statistics of what percentage of people doesn’t report domestic violence or rape, if it’s not reported?” Speakers answered that via anonymous surveys, people are more open to admitting their domestic abuse or rape than to the police. This is because those events, especially rape, carry intense stigmas against the victim. Furthermore, they explained, even putting that shame aside, there is no guarantee that the abuser will be brought to justice.
“All the work came together,” Fuchs said. “Because the information was so important, and the attendance was huge, so I know the messages reached many young people.”
By: Jacob Lurie (12th grade)