Elmont Memorial High School is expanding student access to free services dedicated to countering teen dating violence through a program announced on Oct. 21 by Nassau County.
Known as Safe Dates, the initiative “strives to help teens recognize signs of an unhealthy relationship and arm them with skills to develop healthy ones to ultimately avoid patterns that could lead to mental health issues, substance abuse and domestic violence,” a statement released by the county said.
The program’s services, which have been previously offered to students in Nassau schools for five years by The Safe Center L.I., a nonprofit that provides domestic violence support services, will be free. The county is partnering with the organization to expand the program throughout the county’s 56 school districts. Elmont High, which has taken part in the center’s program in the past, is expanding access to its services to junior high school students.
“Conversations about healthy relationships and boundaries should start as soon as possible to help protect children,” Keith Scott, The Safe Center’s director of education, said in the statement. “… Safe Dates provides comprehensive, age-appropriate tools for children to use in recognizing warning signs of unhealthy relationships while fostering skills that build upon positive relationships.”
County Executive Laura Curran announced the revamped county-wide effort on Oct. 21, as the third Thursday of each October is marked every year as Purple Thursday, a national day of action against domestic violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“Nassau County continues to expand services and provide unwavering support for victims of abusive relationships, while working on the grass-roots level to break the cycle with education and early intervention like the Safe Dates program,” Curran said, accompanied by Elmont High officials, according to the statement.
The county, she said, was committed to implementing the Safe Dates program in schools in communities of color Nassau, in an effort to address the “disproportionate impact domestic and dating violence has on black and brown teens,” the statement said.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that students of color are often more likely to face teen dating violence. “Sexual minority groups are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence,” the report said, “and some racial/ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by many types of violence.”
The recent murder of Gabby Petito of Long Island, apparently by her boyfriend, was noted at the announcement to highlight the dangers of abusive relationships. “The recent tragic death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito has underscored the importance of ensuring our young people recognize the red flags of an unhealthy relationship and arming them with the tools to develop healthy ones,” Curran said, according to the statement.
“The Gabby Petito tragedy underscores the dire need to teach our kids about the dangerous reality of controlling and abusive relationships,” State Sen. Anna Kaplan added, “and early education is the key to ensuring they learn how to make healthy decisions and learn the signs of potential danger ahead.”
Nassau County and The Safe Center L.I. are scheduled to host a virtual information and question-and-answer session about the program for students, parents and educators on Facebook Live on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m.