Posted by Sara Berkowitz
On Sunday, June 9, family and friends gathered at JF&CS Headquarters to celebrate the accomplishments of 18 Jewish teenage girls who participated in Journey to Safety’s TeenSafe, the agency’s teen dating abuse prevention program. At the celebration, the participants spoke about lessons learned and the impact the group had on their perspective. One TeenSafe member was asked to explain why it was important for her to be in TeenSafe and what skills she gained. She eloquently responded:
“Over the course of my time in TeenSafe I have learned a substantial amount about teen dating abuse. Personally, the matter of dating abuse means a lot to me and I am glad TeenSafe gives me and the rest of the girls in our group a chance to spread awareness about the issue. At TeenSafe we learn about self-respect, healthy relationships, warning signs of abuse, and appropriate ways to address the issue with our friends. At seventeen, I have the awareness and skills about an issue few girls my age have. I feel comfortable giving other girls and boys advice and talking to them about such a sensitive yet serious topic. I also have gained leadership skills because of the presentations that we give to the Greater Boston community. I now know how to speak about dating abuse publically and I am very thankful for that.”
Funded with a generous grant from the Boston Jewish Community Women’s Fund, TeenSafe is designed to bring Jewish high school girls together to learn about healthy, unhealthy, and abusive behavior in dating relationships and to create a way to share this information with their peers. The program curriculum emphasizes leadership skills, experiential learning, and community building among the participants. TeenSafe also includes a peer outreach program in which returning TeenSafe participants create and implement programs for their peers in the Jewish community. This year, TeenSafe met and worked with more than 100 youth.
TeenSafe offers a unique experience for Jewish teenage girls. When teens were asked to explain what makes TeenSafe different from other opportunities they’ve had, their responses included:
- TeenSafe offers education about safe ways to handle relationships.
- It provides a comfortable environment for discussion about topics that are typically blurry and/or scary.
- It gives hands-on experience for presenting and leading.
- You can “do good” and, at the same time, hang out with your friends.
- We learned how to work together and help others address serious issues.
- This group is personalized. We have the freedom to guide our discussions while at the same time having the right amount of structure to be productive in learning and teaching.
- Joining TeenSafe makes you feel like you are actually teaching others and it’s a program where you feel like you are really doing something!
Journey to Safety is currently recruiting 10th, 11th, and 12th grade Jewish girls for next year’s TeenSafe group. Check out the TeenSafe flyer and apply today.
TeenSafe is also booking workshops for presentations to teens in your synagogues, youth groups, and other Jewish youth settings. Contact us to learn more.
Sara Berkowitz is the Youth Educator of Journey to Safety’s TeenSafe Program, where she runs groups designed to teach teenage girls to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships and help them become mentors for their peers. Sara has years of experience working with teens in school, youth group, and camp settings and is passionate about empowering youth to make change in their community. She also works for Wayside Youth & Family Support Network as an In-Home Therapist and Peer Leadership Advisor. Sara has a BA from Ithaca College and an MSW from Boston College.