Newsday opinion - Ending relationship and domestic violence

Dr. Teresa Aprigliano is associate dean of the Division of Nursing at Molloy CollegeBy Dr. Teresa Aprigliano and John Amodeo the co-founders of The Partner Project

The National Football League's clumsy approach to incidents of domestic violence in its ranks highlights a disturbing fact: ignored behavior becomes accepted behavior. But the fulcrum of negative publicity provides an opportunity for education and training -- a chance that should not be missed.

A disturbing 9.4 percent of U.S. high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. In real numbers, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men first report some type of relationship abuse between the ages of 11 and 17. For college-aged women, 32 percent report relationship abuse by a previous partner.

If we do not acknowledge relationship and domestic violence, we continue to allow the silence to become all that we hear. And we need to start when personal development begins, specifically schools -- middle school, high school, and college. Education is paramount if we are to end this societal blight.

Our training sessions focus on college students, particularly student-athletes, and are designed to increase awareness. In our sessions, we use actual relationship and domestic violence cases to illustrate instances where signs, or "red flags," were missed. We've used the case of Yeardley Love, the University of Virginia student and lacrosse player who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2010 just weeks before graduation.

After Love's death, her teammates, coaches and friends realized they missed signs that she was involved in an unhealthy relationship. If they had been able to identify the red flags, they believe perhaps they could've saved her life. It is the red flags that we need to teach about, and we need to educate friends and family on what to safely do to bring a positive end to a situation.

As part of our training sessions, jealousy, intimidation and alienation from friends and family are all identified as red flags to potential abuse. Are you noticing a significant other is following the individual? Is he or she tracking cellphone use? Are you noticing posturing that is designed to intimidate -- like standing above someone or shouting at them? All should be cause for concern.

We teach potential bystanders not only to identify red flags, but also potential ways to intervene, protect and aid victims. They are taught that in extreme cases of abuse it's best to call 911, as safety is always paramount. Additionally, they learn the importance of being there to listen as the victim discusses the situation, and to provide direction to the victim.

During our training sessions, attendees share examples of how relationship and domestic violence has impacted their lives. This is essential to the process and fosters interaction between trainer and trainee. Based on this student feedback, we modify training sessions to incorporate new insights.

Grass-root organizations such as The Partner Project, which was created to begin the conversation about relationship and domestic violence, are instrumental to ensuring information and training is accessible. Building awareness through education and training will bring essential change. In turn, that change will ensure that abusive behavior is not tolerated, and casino cameras are not relied upon to shine a light on violence.

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