DOVER — On Saturday the nonprofit organization Witney’s Lightswill host the fourth annual walk/5K run at Silver Lake Park in Dover to illuminate domestic violence awareness and prevention.
Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the official kickoff at 10. It is the organization’s only major fundraiser and funds all its programs, including college domestic violence awareness.
“It helps to foster programs for not just the Dover community, but the entire state of Delaware and beyond,” founder Quincy Lucas said.
Witney’s Lights is named after Ms. Lucas’ sister, the late Dr. Witney Holland Rose, a University of Maryland psychiatrist who was murdered in 2003 by her ex-boyfriend.
Last year 982 signed up for the walk/5K and this year she said she is hoping many more participate.
A tent will be set up for “W.I.T.” kits — women in transition kits complete with personal care items. These kits will be distributed to various shelters in the area for women and children on the run, Ms. Lucas said.
In addition, blood pressure screening and information discussing healthy, safe relationships will be available. Many individuals in abusive relationships have health issues, Ms. Lucas said.
Witney’s Lights also runs a youth ambassador program. The project started to educate youth on the dangers of domestic violence, Ms. Lucas said. The first step begins with stressing healthy and safe relationships, and then they can take those life skills to their communities and schools.
The youth ambassador program lasts six weeks or six months for kids between ages 13-18. Prospective ambassadors attend seminars led by professionals discussing topics like conflict resolution, safe relationships, self-esteem and drug abuse.
Ms. Lucas said she would love to see the program implemented for kids even younger — 11-to 12-year olds. Bullying in the classroom, she said, can escalate.
“It piggybacks from bullying to abusive relationships,” she said.
Kristen Herman, project coordinator for CHILD, Inc. agreed early healthy relationship intervention is needed as younger kids engage in dating relationships. Difficulties also arise with lack of communication within families.
“The parents don’t know so they don’t think it’s an issue,” Ms. Herman said.
In 2008 the tween, teen, and twenty-something research organization Tru revealed the findings of a tween dating survey. Forty-seven percent of tweens and more than one in three 11-to 12-year olds said they have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.
Last summer Gov. Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 206 to combat the rise in teen dating violence and sexual assault. The bill requires Delaware school districts and charter schools serving grades seven to 12 to establish a policy for responding to teen dating violence and sexual assault, as well as training for teachers.
School districts and charter schools are required to add healthy relationship programming to the health class curriculums.
“That’s a start, but we still have a long way to go,” Ms. Lucas said.
Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence and CHILD, Inc. offer free training for middle school health teachers. These workshops offer an introduction to violence prevention as well as sample lessons.
Data compiled by the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence in 2009 stated that nearly one in 10 children surveyed said they saw a family member assault another in the past year.
Even if a child hasn’t directly committed violence towards another individual, there is a good chance he or she has witnessed it, whether in the home or from the media, Ms. Herman said.
Ms. Lucas said one out of three boys from an abusive household are likely to be in an abusive relationship. The issue is generational.
“To truly change the dynamics, we have to absolutely start with youth and changing their mindset, because a lot of times they are mirroring what they see or experience at home,” Ms. Lucas said.
Staff writer Jen Rini can be reached at 741-8250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @DSNJen_Rini.