Cupid’s Ugly Brother, Domestic Violence

Programs like Know Abuse help raise awareness for National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month


Hannah Kornblut

Members of Know Abuse rehearse a scene before the performance Sept. 10.

February and love are basically synonymous. Right smack-dab in the middle of the month is Valentine’s Day — the holiday specifically for love. On the flip side, February is also National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

According to the CDC, 23 percent of females and 14 percent of males who were ever sexually abused first experienced domestic abuse between the ages of 11 and 17. When I first heard this information, I was surprised. In school, we learn about issues of bullying and race relations and stress management, but not domestic violence.

Freshman year, however, that changed. I saw a play called “Know Abuse” that sought to inform teens about the different types of relationship abuse — physical, emotional, financial and verbal, to name a few — and how to spot an unhealthy relationship.

The performance blew my mind because it was so raw and honest, rather than the after-school-special direction school-sanctioned productions typically take. The cast itself comprised high school students, which made the content more believable — these were high school students talking about high school problems. For me, the message stuck because no one was trying to water down realities.

The performance affected me so much that one year later, I joined the cast. Being a part of an organization that spreads this much-needed information to young adults has been such an important aspect of my life.

Know Abuse is an extension of the Families at Risk department at the Jewish Family Services Association of Cleveland. They train an advisory board comprising Cleveland-area teens on about domestic violence and how to facilitate discussions about it. Those teenagers then either directly interact with students after a Know Abuse performance, or train other peer mentors to do the same. The organization currently works with schools such as Shaker Heights High School, Hawken Upper School, Brush High School and Euclid Central Middle School.

I have the unique standpoint of having been an observer and now a performer. I gained something different from both perspectives. As an observer, I was exposed to the many faces of domestic abuse and I realized that the fine line between a dysfunctional relationship and an abusive on is a line that people don’t always see. As a member of the Know Abuse program, I’ve learned how to recognize the signs of abuse and carry on a conversation about domestic violence.

Domestic violence, especially among teenagers, needs to be addressed on a larger scale. When 10 percent of high school students have been or are currently in some type of abusive relationship, something needs to be done.

Nothing, however, can be done without having an open dialogue about domestic abuse starting both at home and in school.

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