October 2021

JBWS Educating New Jersey Youth on Dating Abuse

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JBWS, founded in 1976, is a private, non-profit agency providing safety, support, and solutions for abuse for anyone who lives or works primarily in Morris County, NJ. Their vision is to create a community-wide culture that refuses to tolerate the presence of any form of intimate partner violence. With more than 75 staff members and nearly 200 volunteers, they’re helping their community fulfill that mission.

In addition to the services available to women, JBWS has had incredible success with its Dating Abuse Prevention Program (DAPP) targeted towards teens and young adults. Through DAPP, which reaches nearly 8,000 students each year, students can attend educational presentations and counseling services that focus specifically on dating abuse. DAPP provides age-specific lesson plans for middle school, high school, colleges, and community youth groups, as well as leadership programs for athletes.

Changing Course in 2020

When the pandemic hit, JBWS knew they had to pivot accordingly to ensure their message to teens and young adults was still being conveyed effectively. To accommodate the change DAPP manager, Maddie Hahn, MSW, created an online interactive curriculum that was presented via Google Classroom and Zoom. The program used discussion, polling, word cloud creations, videos, chat box and more to keep students engaged.

Teachers have given the program high marks and have said that JBWS is one of the very few community programs that has adapted so well to virtual learning — with over 50% of students reporting feeling more comfortable discussing dating abuse in a virtual format.

As students progress from middle school and into college their level of understanding for, and their confidence to address, certain situations changes. Because of this, DAPP has adapted each presentation to appropriately suit the age and mindset of its students. Examples include:

  • For 7th graders the No2DatingAbuse workshops foster discussions on friendship and dating relationships. The goal of the conversation is to compare the two and highlight the similarities between a controlling partner in a relationship and a bully in an unhealthy friendship. Students can then recognize abusive behavior and are given the tools to handle situations accordingly — whether in an intimate relationship or a platonic one.
  • Through the use of PollEverywhere, high school students are able to anonymously engage with the No2DatingAbuse curriculum. Throughout various activities, students vote on different relationship topics and have conversations on how these specific topics are healthy or unhealthy, and the impact they can have on relationships.

DAPP not only provides resources on dating abuse for high school students but also allows students to become program ambassadors. DAPP Ambassadors are a coalition of student leaders from high schools and community groups across Morris County. Their mission is to raise awareness and connect their community to dating abuse resources as well as provide additional support to their classmates — helping to create comradery among the student body.

In addition to middle school and high school, DAPP has worked with all four colleges in Morris County. That work, which included resident advisor seminars, freshman orientation, athletic team training, and psychology club workshops, has helped college students understand how to communicate with their peers on the topic of dating abuse. It has also given students insight into what signs to look for in potentially abusive partners — all of which have provided a solid foundation for fostering healthy relationships in the future.

Impacting Thousands of Lives

Current research indicates that 1 in 3 high school students will be involved in an abusive relationship. Through JBWS, DAPP is helping students understand the prevalence and warning signs of dating violence, discern healthy versus abusive behaviors, and know the resources for helping a friend or themselves.

This school year, DAPP has made 145 virtual presentations reaching 4,283 middle school, high school, and college students and is on its way to meeting its typical reach of 8,000 students. That’s 8,000 students in Morris County who can now recognize early warning signs of abuse and access resources for help.

Providing funding for a nonprofit whose programs will yield positive effects for years to come is something that The Provident Bank Foundation is incredibly passionate about. The values of JBWS and its dating abuse program align perfectly with ours, and we’re honored to support their ongoing efforts to prevent dating and domestic abuse.

To learn more about JBWS and DAPP visit https://www.jbws.org/ or contact DAPP Manager Maddie Hahn at mhahn@jbws.org.