At Emory University on Sept. 30 were Jane Fonda and high school students and a number of alarming statistics regarding teens.
For instance, one in six high school students in Georgia has been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend this year.
Also, nearly 29 percent of teens experience sexual abuse, physical abuse or threats of physical harm to a partner or self.
This does not fly with Fonda.
“Teen dating violence must be seen as a public health issue,” she said. “We must focus on teaching our young people to develop healthier and more positive relationships at an early age.”
The Jane Fonda Center at Emory was chosen as one of 11 community organizations nationwide to receive $1 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national Start Strong initiative. It is the largest national public health initiative, targeting 11- to-14-year-olds, to stop teen dating violence.
As part of this four-year initiative, Start Strong Atlanta will work locally, with teenagers, parents, caregivers, educators, coaches and community leaders to build environments that support healthy relationships and ensure violence and abuse are not tolerated.
“Sometimes we don’t hear about it because [teenagers] keep it to themselves,” said Billette Owens-Ashford, director of physical education for Atlanta Public Schools. “We need to wrap our arms around them and teach them good behavior.”
The Jane Fonda Center, Atlanta Public Schools and Grady Memorial Hospital Teen Services Program have developed a community plan focused on four strategies involving education, policy change, community outreach and social marketing campaigns to empower local teens to develop healthier relationships.
“To keep it real, to keep it cool and to keep it healthy all starts with [teens],” said Joycelyn Wilson, who is the organization’s social marketing consultant.
“It’s so sad that almost every teen you ask knows someone who has been a victim of dating abuse, if they themselves have not,” said Marie Mitchell, Start Strong Atlanta project director at the Jane Fonda Center. “Indeed, the National Council on Criminal Delinquency Focus states that approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. This can’t continue.”
The Jane Fonda Center at Emory University was created in 2000 with a lead gift from Fonda. The mission of the center is to advance scientific knowledge about adolescence with an emphasis on adolescent reproductive health. The center seeks to disseminate information and strategies for risk reduction and healthy transitions to adulthood. It fulfills its mission by research, program and curriculum development and evaluation.