Zoe Entin knows firsthand that in order to end the cycle of domestic abuse, you have to start with the children and teens impacted.
“A lot of the work that I do is planting seeds,” says Entin, a social worker with the Center Against Domestic Violence (CADV). “Many of the kids I work with see violence in their homes every day, so they think it’s just normal behavior.”
Entin has worked with CADV for more than 10 years, educating students about teen dating violence, sexual harassment and assault – and healthy relationships – as part of CADV’s Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens.
“I recently had a student who was clearly in an abusive relationship,” she explains. “When we met, I gave her the book In Love and In Danger. She read it in one day and came back to tell me she decided to leave her relationship. It was like she got her light back.”
Now, because of RAPP’s success with high school students, CADV is expanding the program to elementary schools with Relationships Are Elementary (RAE). RAE was made possible through a $25,000 donation from HopeLine from Verizon, which collects no-longer-used wireless phones and accessories and turns them into support for domestic abuse organizations nationwide.
“We’re seeing that high school is too late to reach some children,” says Judith Kahan, CEO of CADV. “The RAE program allows us to get there earlier and help these children avoid becoming victims or perpetrators of relationship abuse.”
Margaret’s Place is another local program that works to prevent domestic abuse with education at a young age. Funded by the Joe Torre Foundation, Margaret’s Place provides New York City middle and high school students with a safe room to talk to each other and learn from a professional counselor about relationship abuse, sexual harassment and building healthy relationships.
Recognizing the need for this type of early education, Verizon Wireless recently made a $25,000 HopeLine donation to support Margaret’s Place in Brooklyn, located at Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE) High School.
"The donation from Verizon Wireless will help us continue directly impacting students in New York City and creating greater understanding of the effect of domestic violence at a young age," says Jessica Mischkot, program director at Margaret's Place.
Verizon Wireless has a long history of supporting domestic violence prevention in New York City. Between 2005 and 2013, HopeLine from Verizon gave almost $140,000 in grants to support programs from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, including all four NYC Family Justice Centers.
Verizon Wireless and the Verizon Foundation also recently donated $50,000 to support the opening of Bainbridge Manor, New Destiny Housing’s newest housing project in Brooklyn. The grant will help furnish and staff the building, which provides affordable housing to low-income families and victims of domestic abuse, as well as help fund the Family Support Program.
Ensuring children have a safe place to call home and giving them the tools to build healthy relationships are critical to ending the cycle of domestic abuse. “Every once in a while, I see that moment when the students finally get it,” adds Entin. “Those moments don’t always happen, but when they do, it’s great to see. You know it’s all making a difference.”