For as long as I have been Head of School at Saint Dominic Academy, we’ve partnered each October with Women Rising; a Jersey City community organization that works to help women and children who are victims of abuse. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, I always felt it was important to take time away from our classes for one day, and hold an assembly which outlines clearly to our young ladies how teen dating violence can, if not stopped, lead to a pattern of suffering life – long abuse. This October, although Women Rising cannot join us in person for a school wide assembly, they agreed to prepare a presentation for all of our young ladies, and together we coordinated with our Religion, English and Health Departments to have Ms. Pawka, (Health) work with Ms. Armea (Campus Minister) and Mrs. Herrera (Religion Dept) to share and discuss this presentation with all of our young ladies during this upcoming week in October. I cannot thank all of these teachers enough, and my thanks to everyone at Women Rising and especially Margaret Abrams, our contact there, for putting all of this together in virtual form. We are happy to share it here today.
In New Jersey alone, we have these truly terrible statistics, compiled by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN NEW JERSEY
• There were 65,060 domestic violence offenses reported by the police in 2019
• Overall, females were victims in 75 percent of all domestic violence offenses.
• Domestic violence offenses arising from a dating relationship accounted for 14 percent of the state total.
• 1 in 4 women have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
• On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, approximately 15 calls every minute.
• Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
• 72% of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these crimes are female.
Statistics and data can overwhelm us at times, especially for those of us (myself included) who are not mathematically inclined. I can look at these numbers above, as can every single young lady at Saint Dominic Academy, and see that these numbers are awful and far too high. However, sometimes I think we really only come to understand just how big a concern this is for women when we have it touch our lives personally in some way.
While I would of course hope and pray that there is not one young woman walking the halls at Saint Dominic Academy who has had this affect her life in some way, the numbers show otherwise—that one in every four girls who say hello to me each morning will have this specter’s shadow fall over them; at least once. And what the young ladies of Saint Dominic Academy don’t know, what the faculty and staff don’t know, and what the overall SDA community did not know before reading this blog is that every time they cross the path of their Head of School, they are crossing the path of someone who falls into that 1 in 4 statistic…and it began in high school.
Long ago and far away now, but still not ever a topic I revel in discussing, it happened to me. And because, at that time, there was not such an emphasis on how teen violence could lead into a pattern of abusive relationships—it went on far longer than it ever should have, and for certain, it has cast a long shadow over my life. It is my hope, that in sharing this part of my history with the young women of Saint Dominic Academy, in showing them just how close they can be to the 1 out of 4 number, they will work to make wise choices…when they are dating as teens and when they choose a partner as adult women.
Let us all, each of us as strong women, work to make sure that the future of New Jersey, America and the world over, becomes a future where these statistics are erased, where women are safe at all times, and where domestic abuse becomes just another part of history that we are less than proud of as a country.