SYFS offers prevention program
By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – With October marking National Domestic Violence Awareness month, Jennifer Rifkin, clinical director of Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services (SYFS), shared information about how her agency works to prevent domestic violence, along with information the agency would like the community to know about the issue.
According to Rifkin, SYFS staff partners with the One Love Foundation to provide a range of programs and trainings geared at teaching young people about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
“We empower the next generation to love better and put a stop to relationship abuse and learn how to love better,” Rifkin said.
On an annual basis, staff from the One Love Foundation train SYFS’ interns on their marquee program, Escalation. The program consists of showing a powerful 45-minute film about intimate partner violence in young adult relationships, followed by a guided discussion.
SYFS offers Escalation to schools and other community groups for adolescents and young adults.
Last school year, SYFS staff, interns, board members and several staff from Shrewsbury High School engaged the entire junior class in Escalation.
In addition to reaching high school students, SYFS uses the One Love Foundation’s materials for younger students to cover the topics of friendship, communication and healthy relationships. SYFS has weaved this into the agency’s positive youth development programming, including using it in their “You Go Girl” series.
“When we run One Love programming, we are aiming to teach children and young people to be able to recognize signs of an unhealthy relationship and how to respond,” said Rifkin. “We also want to impart the belief that everyone deserves to be in healthy, safe and loving relationships.”
There is much Rifkin would like the community to be aware of in regard to domestic violence.
“Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner,” she said. “Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.”
Rifkin explained that abuse includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone. Domestic violence, she added, can occur across the gamut of the population, regardless race, age, sexual orientation, economic class, immigration status, religion or gender.
“It can happen to couples that are married, living together, or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels and it is more common that most people believe,” she noted.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. Intimate partner violence affects more than 12 million people each year and 43 percent of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, technological, verbal or controlling abuse. In addition, nearly 33 percent of women killed in U.S. workplaces between 2003 and 2008 were killed by a current or former intimate partner.
SYFS urges people affected by domestic violence to seek support.
“If you or someone you know is in an unsafe relationship, help is available. No matter where you are in your relationship, planning for your emotional and physical safety is extremely important,” Rifkin said.
Another way SYFS reaches out to the community regarding domestic violence is by participating in the domestic violence awareness vigil organized by Against Domestic Violence in Shrewsbury Education (ADVISE). This year’s vigil is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 6:30-7:15 p.m. on the Shrewsbury Common at the corner Main and Grafton streets.
Domestic Violence Resources
Abby’s House, Worcester 508-756-5486
ADVISE Helpline: 508-842-0056
Jane Doe, Inc./Massachusetts Safelink:
Massachusetts Child Abuse Hotline: 800-792-5200
Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission: 800-426-9009
Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hotline: 800-922-2275
The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800-656-4673
New Hope Hotline: 800-323-4673
Saheli (Advocacy for South Asian Women): 866-472-4354
Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services:
YWCA of Central Massachusetts/Daybreak:
24-Hour Helpline 508-755-9030, ywcacm.org/domestic-violence