New Program Aims to Help Young People Stop Violence in Their Lives

Adults often know where to turn when a relationship turns violent, but do children?

Oswego County Opportunities and the Fulton, Hannibal and Oswego school districts are working together on a new, grant-funded program to help get the word to young people about how to find help to stop violence in their dating lives.

“Oswego County lacks youth-specific services that are necessary to establish a coordinated community response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking for youth and youth service providers,” a report prepared for the grant states.

And the need is higher here than in other counties in the state, according to the report, which cites figures prepared by a state agency showing levels of family problems, academic problems and early drug use are all higher in Oswego County than the statewide average.

So how much dating and relationship violence occurs among teens? No one can say for sure, but officials working on the new grant program believe there’s a lot more of it than anyone knows about. The report cites studies showing that nearly 9 in 10 people who have suffered some form of relationship violence only tell a friend; they never tell police or a counselor. “Privacy and confidentiality become barriers for youth in small communities such as Fulton, Hannibal and Oswego because ‘everyone knows everyone’,” the report said.

Social networking sites such as Facebook provide even more points of contact for abusers to find victims, said Geri Geitner, the Fulton school district administrator in charge of the new grant program. “With all the social networking,” Geitner said, “all of the boundaries in relationships have changed.”

The new program will make OCO’s longtime education program widely available in the three school districts for the first time. It will also, for the first time, create a coordinated response to relationship violence and stalking on behalf of young people.

“This grant is a real testament to the power of collaboration,” Geitner said.