NCJW/Essex Teen Dating Abuse Project Celebrates Milestone

Livingston, NJ October 30, 2014 – NCJW/Essex’s Teen Dating Abuse Project (TDA), a community awareness program for teens, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. TDA offers a comprehensive classroom experience for high school students in Essex County to make students aware of the warning signs of abuse in teen relationships, safely end the relationship and learn about healthy relationships.

The NCJW/Essex Center for Women identified the need for domestic violence services in suburban communities back in the 1980s. TDA founders Myrna Wertheimer and Ellen Klein, along with their committee, spent a year developing the curriculum models and training modules for presenters to focus on prevention of domestic violence through education. In 1994, presentations on prevention of relationship abuse began, targeting high school juniors and seniors.

Today, the program is presented to ninth graders and is a two-day multimedia presentation offered in approximately 17 public and private high schools. The students are educated to recognize the warning signs of emotional, verbal, sexual, and/or physical abuse early in their relationships, because abuse starts slowly and is often difficult to identify in its initial stages.  In addition, TDA volunteers under the umbrella of the Linda and Rudy Slucker NCJW/Essex Center for Women, present to parent groups and do staff development workshops.

According to TDA chairperson Sharon Falkin, the program has changed with the times and now includes information on how technology and social media can be used as a weapon to abuse.

Although it has been twenty years since its inception, founders Myrna Wertheimer and Ellen Klein still hold TDA close to their hearts. “We are proud of all who have continued to help the program grow and evolve,” reflected Myrna. “It is heartening to see that TDA is still thriving. Obviously the need is still there,” added Ellen.

TDA is one of the signature programs of NCJW/Essex, educating 3200 high school students each year. Abusive relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and escalating violence.  As Sharon explains, “We want to educate students and adults about this social problem before it becomes a problem in their own lives.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Teen Dating Abuse celebrates its 20-year milestone, offering a classroom experience for high school students in Essex County to raise awareness about the warning signs of abusive relationships. Pictured (l to r) are co-founders Ellen Klein and Myrna Wertheimer of Livingston, and current co-chairs Sharon Falkin of West Orange and Cindy Charney of Livingston.

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