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It Happens Next Door
July 22, 2011
It Happens Next Door

Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer

Wayland Massachusetts is one of those places where everyone knows everyone. Reeling from the news that a promising young man like Nathaniel Fujita, a recent Wayland High School graduate, would stand accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend and fellow graduate, Lauren Astley, the community is struggling. Wayland’s Jewish community also shares the community’s profound sadness with many members knowing one or both of the families impacted by the homicide.

While devastated, we – as a community – must now look ahead. Both teen and adult abusers rely on silence, fear, and ignorance. Education and awareness are powerful tools to offer to teens, parents, educators, counselors, and youth advisors.

We need to know the facts: statistics in this country tell a powerful story. (Citations available in the Get the Facts section of www.futureswithoutviolence.org.)

  • One in three adolescent girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. 
  • Nearly one in ten high-school students has been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Warning signs of abuse
We discuss lots of health and safety-related issues with teens. Yet many of us miss chances to talk about relationship warning signs, such as being told what to wear or with whom to spend time. Moreover, when a boyfriend or girlfriend calls and texts constantly, this is an opportunity to talk about safety and rights in a relationship.

Respect and an equal balance of power
Respect, mutual understanding, and shared power in intimate relationships are concepts kids need to know. However, without examples and discussion about their meaning, youth will not heed our warnings and suggestions. Learn about how to talk about these things; we know many adults don’t know what to say or how to respond.
 
Helping those who have been abused is key to preventing tragedy
While teens themselves may someday face an abusive situation, they could also end up supporting a friend or family member in a difficult or scary situation. We need a community of teens and adults who not only recognize abuse, but know how to reach out and help when they see others in trouble.

Healing and moving forward
It is difficult to move forward when death is so senseless and grief so fresh. However, as each day turns to the next we may find strength, comfort, or a little peace by connecting with beauty and nature. Rabbi Katy Allen, a friend of Laura Astley’s father has organized a walking series, Wayland Healing Walk, Saturday, July 23, 3:30 PM, Rowan Hill Conservation Area. Perhaps participating can be a healing step in the wake of Lauren’s murder. To learn more, contact Rabbi Allen at rabbikza@verizon.net.
 
Journey to Safety and other domestic abuse programs are here to help.
You are not alone – local domestic abuse programs and JF&CS Journey to Safety – offer workshops that can be tailored to parents, teens, educators, youth group advisors, and other youth-serving volunteers and professionals. Learn to better understand abuse, warning signs, and ways to talk to teens about healthy and unhealthy relationships. For more information, please contact your local domestic abuse program or call Journey to Safety at (781) 647-JFCS (5327).

Elizabeth Schön Vainer is the Program Director of Journey to Safety, the JF&CS response to domestic abuse. Elizabeth is pleased to bring her many years of experience collaborating with multidisciplinary teams to investigate child and domestic abuse to Journey to Safety and JF&CS. She believes that only through collaborative efforts can we truly serve our clients. Elizabeth has a BSW from the University of Tel Aviv and a MS in Organization and Management from Antioch University. 

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