Our children are builders of world peace; they must be protected

As we begin 2017, we are faced with an increasingly violent world. For KentuckyOne Health and Jewish Hospital, committed to bringing healing, not only within the walls of our hospital, but out into our community, this means dedicating ourselves to nonviolence with renewed passion.

Our antiviolence initiatives span the gamut from preventative initiatives for children to interventions for those who are caught in the cycle of violence, with a recognition that it is only by helping the next generation to break the cycle of violence bequeathed to them that we will be able to create a more peaceful world.Nadia Siritsky

This approach, which is also at the foundation of Catholic Health Initiatives’ approach to violence prevention work, is grounded in Jewish values. Regarding the verse in Isaiah 54:13: “And all your children shall be students of G-d, and all your children will find peace” our rabbis taught:  “Read not banayich (your children) but bonayich (your builders)” to highlight the sacred responsibility that is placed upon our children to build up the world of tomorrow. In order to help transform our children into builders of a world of peace, we have a responsibility to teach them the necessary skills.

Sadly, according to the Center for Women and Families, one out of every three teens will experience violence in a relationship.  This has serious long-term and short-term effects. Many teens do not report it because they are afraid to tell friends and family. A 2011 CDC nationwide survey found that 23 percent of females and 14 percent of males who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.

As teens develop emotionally, they are impacted by their relationship experiences. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have severe consequences and short- and long-term negative effects on a developing teen. Youth who experience dating violence are more likely to experience:

  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety;
  • Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco and drug use;
  • Involvement in antisocial behaviors;
  • Thoughts about suicide.

Young people need information — and more importantly skills — to help them navigate relationships, resolve conflicts, recognize abuse and take positive action for themselves and their friends. Everyone has the right to healthy relationships free from emotional and physical violence.

As part of our commitment to actualize this mission, this month we have two exciting ways that we are working to redress these terrifying statistics, and to provide teens with the skills  that they need to have healthier relationships. Since last year, we have been working with leaders of B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) and Parkhill, Algonquin & California Teens in Action (PACT in Action). PACT in Action is a teen dating violence prevention initiative of The Center for Women & Families and KentuckyOne Health, and funded by Catholic Health Initiatives Mission and Ministry Fund. This innovative program puts prevention to work to eliminate teen dating violence before it happens by focusing upon approaches that strengthen individual knowledge and skills, promote community awareness, foster coalitions and influence policy and legislation — the real way to make lasting impact.

At the end of January, as part of BBYO’s J-Serve Day of Service, youth from both programs will come together to continue fostering a relationship of collaboration across cultures, program visions/missions and other attributes that often divide, rather than unify, learning from each other and working together to build a more peaceful and inclusive world.

We are also supporting another exciting program, organized by Metro Louisville’s Health Department and Leadership Louisville Bingham Fellows team to create Louisville’s first ever Break Up Summit on February 25, at Spalding University School of Social Work. Teens from the Boston Public Health Commission’s “Start Strong” program will share their nationally recognized, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded teen dating violence prevention seminars.

Finally, 125 teens from Louisville will participate in FREE fun, interactive workshops about managing difficult feelings like anger and jealousy, resolving conflicts, recognizing abusive relationships, building healthy relationships, and navigating breakups. There will also be an adult track for parents to learn from teens and hear how they can be supportive of their children during break ups. To learn more, contact me at nadiasiritsky@kentuckyonehealth.org or sign up (team@breakupsummit.com).

(Rabbi Dr. Nadia Siritsky is vice president of mission at KentuckyOne Health.)

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