With signs raised and spirits high, hundreds of people marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to bring awareness to teen dating violence and advocate for its end. Organized by Brooklyn nonprofit the Healing Center, the seventh annual NYC Teen Dating Violence Awareness Walk-A-Thon worked to bring attention to the threat that teens face through a walk that spanned between Brooklyn Heights’ Cadman Plaza and City Hall on April 14.
According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, between 2012 and 2017, one in four women and one in nine men were victims of sexual assault, stalking or sexual violence. Stephanie Rodriguez, youth coordinator of the Healing Center, said that this year’s walk was focused more on the intersection between dating violence and other issues currently in the national consciousness, such as gun violence and the #MeToo movement.
“It was really great to see many teens proactive and really engaged in the topic,” Rodriguez said, noting that teens were much more active in this year’s walk than in previous ones.
“I think youth are starting to mobilize more,” she continued. “They’re realizing their voices can be heard more.”
The walk kicked off with a rally at Cadman Plaza, gathering both teen and adult advocates for speeches from those who have experienced intimate partner violence and songs from artists Kat Capone and Lavender Gonzalez. The walk itself lasted around an hour as marchers made their way across the bridge to City Hall.
“For seven years, we have created a platform to highlight the intersections of violence affecting our youth,” Antonia Clemente, co-founder and executive director of The Healing Center, said in a release. “Now is the time to shatter the wall of darkness that has shrouded the issues of teen dating violence, domestic abuse and gun violence, and bring to light real solutions.”
The Healing Center dedicates itself to the intervention in and prevention of family violence and abuse, serving all faiths and cultures. The walk originated out of the organization’s youth program when the women who were working with the Healing Center started asking questions about their own daughters and potential violence against them.
“No one was really talking about this,” Rodriguez said, explaining that the highest rate of domestic violence affects teenagers and those in college. Besides raising awareness, the walk is meant to show survivors that they are not alone.
Clemente helped create the Healing Center in 2000, when the organization was run out of a church kitchen. Soon, however, it grew into an official nonprofit. In 2008, the Healing Center partnered with Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Bay Ridge.