Grant to help prevent local teen dating violence

Eau Claire, WI (WEAU) -- A nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence is launching a new program to prevent teenage dating violence. End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin is receiving a $30,000 grant from Verizon wireless.

It plans to enact a three-pronged approach to help prevent teen dating violence.

Pat Stein with Bolton Refuge House says the grant given to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin will help local teens take back their childhood.

"Teens are entitled to have a healthy childhood, they're entitled to have the fun sports outings and prom nights that help the to develop into functioning adults," says Stein. She notes that it’s unfortunate dating violence isn’t being discussed, even though she says there’s a lot of unhealthy activity taking place in teen relationships.

Statewide the non-profit group plans on taking a three step approach to prevent teen dating violence. Stein says Bolton Refuge will customize the plan for our area.

“They'll create a best practice, a policy and procedure and we'll bring that back to our area, have our board look at it so if still fits the mission and goals of Bolton,” says Stein, “Then, we'll be implementing something so that individuals will have access to us through their mobile device."

The first component is a confidential texting line, so teens feel more comfortable reaching out. The next two steps involve education.

Stein says preventing violence is key, and hopes this project will urge legislation to introduce violence prevention into the existing school curriculum.

"Developing a standard in the school systems to actually allow us, as direct service providers, the opportunity to go into the schools and do a lot of prevention work, my hope is that we'll recognize this as a need from kindergarten through 12th grade as a consistent curriculum in the schools.”

Stein says Bolton Refuge has curriculum ready to implement, they just need the opportunity. Dr. Mary Ann Hardbeck with the Eau Claire School District says while the district has a program addressing appropriate behavior among teens, the district is always open to new curriculum that benefits students' wellbeing.

“We're always interested in any program and any initiative that helps students to make good choices to be safe and be healthy so we'd take a very close look at it," says Hardbeck.

Stein says there are hopes to pass other legislation as well, like allowing teens under the age of 18 to safely contact the refuge house without needing the permission of a guardian.