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Let’s Talk About Respect Event
On a cool fall evening in New York City, Joyful Heart held an intimate conversation about teen dating violence prevention to help raise awareness and inspire increased involvement from our joyful community. Generously hosted at the home of Joyful Heart Board Member Sukey Novogratz and her husband, Mike, the evening began with a panel discussion which was followed by a Q&A session. The event concluded with a night of incredible food and music—coordinated in Sukey’s incomparable style.
The program, entitled “Respect: A Conversation About Keeping Our Children, Tweens and Teens Safe from Dating Violence,” was kicked off with a gracious welcome from Sukey, who shared Joyful Heart’s vision for a community empowered with knowledge about teen dating abuse that would turn its collective attention to addressing the issue. Sukey then introduced the evening’s moderator, Linda Fairstein, former Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, best-selling author and national expert on sexual and intimate partner violence, and the Vice-Chair of Joyful Heart’s Board of Directors.
Linda thanked the assembled guests and recognized a number of long time Joyful Heart supporters in the room, among them JHF Board members Tom Nunan, Andrea Buchanan, Carrie Shumway, Jill Eisenstadt-Chayet, Chauncey Parker, Ashley McDermott and Michael King.
Speaking to the audience that included a large number of parents with teenage children, Linda expressed her hope that those in attendance would leave with tools that would help them speak to the young people in their lives and inspire them to become advocates for change. Linda then introduced the panel which included:
- Karen Agnifilo, Executive Assistant District Attorney and Chief of the Trial Division, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office
- Yolanda Jimenez, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence
- Dr. Jill Murray, Relationship Expert, Best-selling Author and Practicing Psychotherapist
- Danielle DeZao, Survivor and Founder and President of Heart1
- Noopur Agarwal, Director of Public Affairs, MTV and mtvU, who oversees MTV’s award-winning “A Thin Line” campaign
- Jane Randel, VP Corporate Communications, Liz Claiborne, who spearheads Liz Claiborne’s award-winning “Love is Not Abuse” campaign
- Ted Bunch, Co-Founder of A Call to Men, National Activist and Educator
- Abigail Sims, Director of Programs, Joyful Heart Foundation
After the panel introduction, the audience watched a short video, produced in partnership with Liz Claiborne and narrated by Mariska Hargitay, that told the story of four young women who had been involved in abusive relationships. The video served to point out the alarming facts of teen dating violence, among them:
- Women between the ages of 16 to 24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group, at a rate almost triple the national average.
- Social networking and digital technology only further exacerbate incidences of abuse.
- 15.5 million U.S. children live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year.
One by one, the panelists shared information about the subject based on their own experiences. Karen Agnifilo talked about the statistics for teen dating violence in the local New York area as well as what the District Attorney’s Office was doing to prosecute crimes. Commissioner Yolanda Jimenez also spoke about the issue on a local level and shared insights into how the Mayor’s Office and local government were responding.
Linda then introduced Dr. Jill Murray who shared some of the common signs of an unhealthy relationship with the group. Survivor Danielle DeZao detailed her personal experience with dating violence and how it progressed over time. Much of her story echoed the warning signs presented by Dr. Murray. Danielle explained how hard it was to see the gradual escalation until the abuse was particularly severe. As her parents looked on from the audience, Danielle stated that she felt fortunate to have escaped the danger safely, knowing how many other young people do not get help in time.
Noopur Argarwal detailed the increased complexity of teen dating abuse in the digital age. Noopur sited the dramatic increase in stalking behavior made possible by constant text communication and social networking sites. It is commonly perceived that this sort of stalking behavior is a common warning sign of future dating violence. Noopur then screened several clips from MTV’s award-winning “A Thin Line” campaign that included real teens sharing their experiences with digital dating abuse.
After the screening, Jane Randel, who spearheads Liz Claiborne’s Love is Not Abuse Coalition spoke about what parents across the country are doing to help end the cycle of violence and abuse. Jane stressed the importance of creating open and clear channels of communication with children at an early age so that they remain comfortable sharing information as they grow older. Jane also acknowledged that despite a parent’s best efforts, teens are still overwhelmingly more likely to turn to their peers for advice. She stressed that this was all the more reason to educate our kids, as they might be the best way to get their peers help in a troubled situation.
Finally, Ted Bunch shared his thoughts on how parents can engage their sons to help prevent dating violence. He also issued a challenge to all of the men in the room to evaluate not only how their words, but also their subtle actions, might contribute to young men having disrespectful attitudes towards women.
Throughout the conversation, the panel took questions from the audience and spirited discussions took place. After an hour and half, the audience was invited upstairs to continue the conversation in a more social setting.