By Claire Godley
This week saw the launch of Safer Dating – a new initiative from Jewish Women’s Aid which aims to raise awareness about healthy and abusive relationships amongst 16-25 year olds. Almost one hundred representatives of Jewish Youth Movements, Jewish secondary schools, university Jewish societies and other Jewish and women’s organisations were treated to tenpin bowling and karaoke as well as being engaged in activities relating to safer dating awareness.
Safer Dating aims to make sure that being young does not mean being naïve, to make sure that no one feels that they are to blame for being abused by someone they love and to enable more people to spot the signs of abuse and support their friends.
Jewish Women’s Aid supports Jewish women across the UK and their children whose lives have been torn to shreds by abuse from someone who was supposed to love them. Throughout their lifetimes, 1 in 4 women will be affected by domestic abuse, and Jewish women are no different. It has long been clear to us that as well as providing refuges, counselling, practical and legal support, we must also try to prevent people from becoming trapped in abusive relationships to start with and if possible prevent abuse itself.
For over 10 years, Jewish Women’s Aid has been delivering education work in schools, teaching 11 – 18 year olds about what makes relationships healthy and unhealthy. In 2015 we commissioned a piece of research to look at the experiences of 16 to 25 year olds and we found that this age group are most affected by domestic abuse and yet they are totally under-represented in support services including ours. There is also a growing and worrying trend of sexual harassment, stalking and abuse on campus and some studies have also suggested a link between ‘lad culture’, misogynist views and abuse towards women.
Since the start of the academic year, Safer Dating has run sessions at universities, for Jewish Youth Movements as well as some for the 22 to 25 year age group. The sessions explore what makes a healthy, unhealthy or abusive relationship as well as pointing out the warning signs of relationship abuse. Our sessions encourage participants to think about the relationships they see around them. In particular our leadership programs help participants consider the importance of healthy relationships for the young people they work with. We also encourage participants to consider the way social media, films, television and music portray relationships and the sometimes worrying messages they are presenting.
We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback and are very much looking forward to continuing to expand Safer Dating. We are delighted to be able to have begun working closely with the Union of Jewish Students to produce a peer led program that will develop and expand our work with students. As 16-21 year olds enter their Summer examination period we are looking forward to working more with the 22-25 age group, through a program of networking and social events.
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