Healing Center marches for teen dating violence awareness at annual walk-a-thon

Teen dating violence – a growing and often unrecognized issue nationwide – was in the spotlight on Saturday, April 16 as hundreds of teens, parents, schools and community members made their way across the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the fifth annual New York City Teen Dating Violence Awareness Walk-a-thon.

The event – which serves as the city’s sole walk for teen dating violence – is run year after year by the Healing Center, a Brooklyn-based organization founded in 2000 to serve those who suffer in silence because of the issue.

According to Stephanie Rodriguez, community liaison for the Healing Center, this year’s event was the biggest the center has ever seen.

“We would like to thank the Bay Ridge community as a whole for providing us with such amazing support for our fifth annual Teen Dating Violence Awareness Walk-a-thon,” said Rodriguez, who spoke of the walk’s success at an April 19 Community Board 10 meeting, held at Shore Hill (9000 Shore Road). “It’s been the biggest walk we’ve had year-to-date.”

Specifically, Rodriguez gave thanks to P.S./I.S. 30 and its after-school program for getting its children involved.

According to Antonia Clemente, executive director and founder of the Healing Center, the walk bears importance each year as no one is immune to the issue.

“It has become all too common and no community, neighborhood or household is immune to it,” she said. “We [walk] to City Hall to stress the need for continued funding, awareness and education on teen dating violence that affects many youth in our city.”

According to the American Journal of Public Health, one in three teens report experiencing some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships. Additionally, Women’s Health has reported that at least 81 percent of parents surveyed either don’t believe teen dating violence to be an issue or admit that they are unsure.

This year’s walk kicked off with registration at the corner of Cadman Plaza and Tillary Street in downtown Brooklyn and was followed by a rally. Survivors and supporters then marched over the Brooklyn Bridge, and convened on the steps of City Hall where they were given the platform to tell their stories.

This year’s co-sponsors included Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Bay Ridge, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, Center for Anti-Violence Education, CONNECT, HealthFirst, New York Asian Women’s Center, Sanctuary for Families, YWCA of Brooklyn, D.WildMusic Radio and Surrender clothing line.

For more information on, or to donate after-the-fact to the fifth annual New York City Teen Dating Violence Awareness Walk-a-thon or the Healing Center, visit www.crowdrise.com/NYCTeenWalk.

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