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PV Teams with PowerBack to Prevent Teen Dating Abuse

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Kayla Leonard '20
15 February 2019

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships Chart; photo credit: Ms. Kelly Morris Passaic Valley is among only 6 high schools in New Jersey provided with a $40,000 grant to carry out a two-year program through A Partnership for Change. In honor of Teen Dating Abuse Prevention Week, the Teen Center has teamed up with the PowerBack program to carry out effective awareness activities for the pertinent topic.

PowerBack is a voluntary program, open to all students, designed to prevent teen dating abuse.

In this educational and peer leadership project, teens are given the “power back” to contribute to domestic violence and dating abuse prevention. This program offers guidance as to where one can receive help, how teens can become activists, how to promote healthy relationships, and how to support affected loved ones.

“Many students and staff didn't know the statistics of teen dating abuse or who to go to when faced with these kind of situations," says Student Assistance Coordinator Ms. Kelly Morris, who has been clinically trained in handling teen dating abuse and domestic abuse. "PowerBack provides the students directly with the information they need to know so their peers can access the correct resources, as well as our staff.”

The PowerBack program is divided into five parts:

During the beginning of the school year, all students were presented with teen forums. Passaic Valley held an assembly for all sophomores, where students were provided with prevention education. It Teen Dating Violence Wheel; photo credit: Ms. Kelly Morris concluded with a "call to action," allowing any student to sign up as a PowerBack peer leader. 

PowerBack meetings are held every month to guide aspiring peer leaders. Methods to help fellow classmates and friends safely and efficiently are discussed, as well as education on accepting bigger roles in contributing to social change. This change can be through promotion of healthy dating relationships, while advocating against abuse. A certification test is required for hopeful peer leaders, along with a mandatory development of an “awareness event” on school grounds.

"I feel my role in PowerBack is to be supportive and help my peers," says Maria Hofmann '19. "Everybody needs a support system and I want to make sure people feel like I can be there for them."

Effective methods of supporting dating abuse victims are taught through faculty workshops, allowing staff members and administrators to become educated on confronting abusers, safety plans, documenting incidents, and the NJ “Safe Dates” law.

Parent and Guardian Workshops explore the dynamics of abuse, offering valuable instruction on how to connect with their teens and find necessary support.

A Partnership for Change offers one-on-one counseling for teens, staff members, and parents/guardians who are dating abuse victims or dating abuse witnesses. These individual support sessions can lead to referrals to experienced professionals if long-term counseling is necessary.

PowerBack Table; photo credit: Ms. Kelly Morris On Monday, February 11, representatives from the Passaic County Women’s Center did presentations in the Teen Center about healthy relationships.

Wear Orange 4 Love was celebrated on Wednesday, February 13. A banner was signed in the cafeteria by students that pledged for healthy relationships while dating abuse prevention facts and giveaways added to the excitement of the event.

"My favorite activity with PowerBack and the Teen Dating Abuse Prevention Week would be the domestic abuse facts that were shared," says Nicolette Juliano '21. "Many people don't realize how common dating abuse is or what qualifies as dating abuse."

Teen dating abuse prevention posters lit up the hallways and the morning announcements contributed to the week with daily facts. 

"PowerBack is a group that I feel really benefits the students," adds Hofmann. "Sometimes you have to reach out for help and that's okay. I want people to know that along with the rest of the PowerBack group, I am here to help."

The PowerBack program will take place again in the 2019-2020 school year, as PV looks to continue teen dating abuse prevention activities in the future.