Teen Dating Violence Awareness Contest Winners Announced

John J. Flanagan

February 15, 2005

Senator John J. Flanagan (R,C-East Northport), Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C-Smithtown) and Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,C,I,WF-East Northport) today welcomed students from Kings Park High School and Ward Melville High School to the State Capitol to promote awareness of the seriousness of teen dating violence, and to acknowledge the winners of the Teen Dating Violence and Healthy Relationships Media Contest.

The contest, conducted by the Governor’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) and First Lady Libby Pataki, drew more than 180 entries from high schools around the State.

First Lady Libby Pataki said, "This year’s entries showed an impressive understanding of the importance of helping teens identify violence in their relationships. The winning entries are very creative, and will help to spread the message that you should not be ashamed if you are in an abusive relationship. Instead, you must ask for help. I am proud to be a part of this contest, as I firmly believe that raising these difficult issues in this way is making a difference in the lives of many young people throughout our great State."

Senator John J. Flanagan said, "It’s wonderful to see students using their collective talents, energy and ingenuity to promote healthy relationships. This program allows students to become active in their community and serve as valuable community resources to other teens. As parents we teach our children about respect and equality but often the message is much clearer when teens talk to other teens."

Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick said, "Students today use many more media outlets to access information than previous generations did. This program promotes the value of a healthy and respectful relationship through these different outlets. Our winners are very talented and forward-thinking. I applaud their efforts in reaching out to their peers about this problem."

Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,C,I,WF-East Northport) said, "It is an honor and pleasure to stand with these student leaders from Kings Park High School. The creativity and work of these fine students is amazing. Through their creative collaboration, these fine student leaders have increased awareness that there is help if you are a victim of teenage dating violence."

Last fall, announcements were sent to all high school art, health, music and technology teachers in New York State. Students in grades 9-12 were invited to submit posters, songs and music videos that could be used to raise awareness of the seriousness of teen dating violence.

Of the poster submissions, there was one First Place Winner and five recipients of Honorable Mention.

The First Place Winner is Kristin Colasonno of Stony Brook, a high school senior at Ward Melville High School. Her poster features the face of a girl leaning sadly against a mirror, her reflection showing a black eye and bruises. An edgy font provides the headline: "All the makeup in the world can’t change what he does," along with the sobering statistic that "1 in 5 teenagers is affected by teen dating violence."

Ms. Colasonno said, "We talked about teen dating violence in class, about how to convey the idea of abuse. I thought that when you look in a mirror, you see everything. A mirror shows you who you really are – you can’t hide the abuse, physical or mental." She adds that while she doesn’t see a lot of physical violence in her school, she sees a lot of controlling behaviors, such as boyfriends who tell their girlfriends how to look and act.

The five artists receiving honorable mention are, by school and alphabetically: Matt Ehmann, Erin Murphy and Yazmyn Robinson of Rochester (School of the Arts) and Arthur Harsuvanakit and Gloria Yoo of Great Neck (Great Neck South High School). Their posters will be reproduced in OPDV’s Spring 2005 Bulletin.

There was one winner in the music video category. A group of students in the SADD Club at Kings Park High School (Suffolk County) submitted the winning three minute video entitled, "Why Do I Have to Lie." The students being honored for their participation are: Lauren Birkenhead, Kim Haggerty, Ms. Kerrin Fitzpatrick, Amy Richards, Mr. Chris LoGalbo, Steven Smith, Timothy Rugile and Lisa Cullington. The song was written and sung by a former student of Kings Park High School, Steven Mecca.

Two other students are receiving Special Recognition for their contributions. Michael Rappaport of Roslyn (Roslyn High School) submitted a drawing that illustrates the difference between "healthy" and "unhealthy" relationships. It was re-rendered by Christopher Passero, a graduate of Catskill High School. Kenneth McRay of Rochester (School of the Arts) submitted a poster entry that illustrates the fact that abuse doesn’t make sense. It is being reproduced in sticker form to use as giveaways for teens.

These materials and others will be distributed to schools statewide in the spring of 2005. The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence is planning additional aspects of a public awareness effort that focuses on teen dating violence.

The winning poster promotes the NYS Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-942-6906 to call for more information. A small version of the poster is being printed and will be distributed to high schools statewide this spring. Copies will be available through the OPDV web site: www.opdv.state.ny.us in the future. For more information, contact Suzanne Cecala at (518) 457-5744.