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Violence summit teaches teens

They may be young, but high school students could still prove the strongest weapons against domestic violence if they teach their peers to stop it, Boston educators say.

High school students and educators gathered at Simmons College Saturday to learn about the dangers of domestic violence and the lasting impact it can have on families at the fifth annual Peers Against Violence summit.

More than a dozen groups against domestic violence presented and participated in the summit, which was organized by the Boston-based organization REACH: Beyond Domestic Violence. About 100 students took part in workshops, which educated students about domestic violence, teen dating violence and self-defense.

Simmons Institute for Leadership and Change Director Diane Hammer said she was impressed by the summit participants’ commitment.

‘ ‘It is amazing that they can bring out all these young people this early on a Saturday morning to do this work, which will create better and safer communities for all of us,’ she said. ‘It gives me hope for the future.’

REACH outreach and education coordinator Joanne Patterson said she developed the summit in 2003 based on a need for education programs on physical and sexual violence. One in five girls has been physically or sexually abused and one in 10 students say they have been the victims of physical or sexual violence, she said.

REACH intern Rachel Roberts said PAVE works to raise awareness among teens about domestic violence.

‘The important thing is that teens [who] give up a Saturday and choose to be leaders really will be able to pass this info on,’ Roberts, a Boston University School of Social Work and School of Public Health graduate student, said.

Youth and Police in Partnership peer leader Jaelyn Andrews said she came to the event as a tribute to ‘people who passed away’ due to domestic violence.

‘Our neighborhood is very bad,’ the Roxbury high school junior said. ‘There are countless people affected by domestic violence.’

Andrews said members of her community disapprove of anyone who attempts to get involved in other’s relationships, but said there are a growing number of people who recognize that domestic abuse should be stopped.

Teens Against Dating Abuse faculty advisor and founder Peter Holtz said TADA works to promote conversation about domestic violence and help high school students acclimate to tough situations in college.

‘A few of my students have graduated and moved on to college,’ he said. They are immediately confronted with some of the things they’ve been learning with us.’

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