By Naomi Frankel
The message from Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA) was emblazoned loud and clear. The launch of Safer Dating for young men and women on Monday night was pivotal in its aim to bring relevant and engaging relationship education to this group in the community.
Research carried out by the Office for National Statistics shows that 16 to 25-year-olds are especially affected by relationship abuse.
Pam Alldred, a senior lecturer in education and youth work at Brunel University, used the research into education policy and children and young people’s views to show how “domestic violence is not just an adult problem.”
She said: “It is important for children to be able to recognise abuse for the sake of their future well-being in relationships.”
She also discussed negative influences in social media and the unhealthy role models in popular culture that some young people emulate.
The event in All Star Lanes, Bloomsbury, was populated by a young, vibrant crowd who looked forward to a night of bowling, food and fun. They received all that – and a lot more.
Both of the event’s speakers delivered a powerful message that resonated with their young audience.
Joel Salmon, parliamentary officer with The Board of Deputies with responsibility for students and youth and on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews, noted that “the stereotype of the abused ‘middle aged woman’ has to change, as abuse can affect anyone regardless of their gender and age”.
He spoke about how “being young does not mean being naïve” and ended by saying how “JWA’s work is so important in enabling more young people to spot the signs of abuse and help their friends”.
Feedback from the audience was positive. Debbie, an 18-year-old college student, said: “I hadn’t heard of JWA before but I’m glad I came. The atmosphere was amazing and so were the speeches.”
Bassy, also 18, said she was “kind of aware of this stuff before, but the way it’s being explained to us now is great”.
Emma Dorman, mental health awareness co-ordinator at the Jewish Association for the Mentally Ill (JAMI), said: “I think it’s really important to see the work in action that JWA are doing, helping raise awareness of healthy and abusive relationships, particularly among younger people.”
Naomi Dickson, chief executive of JWA, said: “Unfortunately, abuse happens in all faith communities, but JWA understands the cultural sensitivity needed to offer that support in the Jewish community. I have been inundated with young people approaching me, saying yes, we need this, please talk to our campus.”
Ellie Cheyette, a former volunteer with Streetwise, echoed this, saying: “Tonight was so refreshing. A lot of young people definitely dumb down relationship problems and all of this needs to be said.”