We all know that being a teenager is difficult. You’re caught between childhood and adulthood, dealing with inner conflicts, developmental changes, and pressures at home and at school. That’s why learning how to form healthy relationships is so crucial for teens, so they can experiment responsibly, cope with difference, and thus discover who they are. Relying on peers for socialization and support becomes as important as getting good grades and making the team. However, without parental and adult guidance, teens are at risk of engaging in negative social behaviors that could lead to dire consequences and jeopardize their future.
Two out of three teens are bullied; 67 percent are in abusive relationships and never tell anyone about the abuse. Teen relationship abuse victims are more likely to struggle with depression, anorexia and bulimia, drug and alcohol abuse, and gun violence or to be coerced into having unprotected sex that can lead to teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. The victims of abuse and bullying are less likely to complete high school or graduate in four years.
To help teens with the effects of violence and abuse and to prevent the recurring cycle,New York Citycreated the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) 11 years ago. The program has grown to become a vital resource for schools and communities throughout the city.
Today, RAPP operates in 65 schools serving approximately 50,000 ethnically and culturally diverse students in all five boroughs, including both intermediate and high schools. The program goal is to change the culture of the school by promoting and providing resources to build positive peer and adult relationships, which in turn improves graduation rates, promotes higher education, and keeps young people out of gangs and off the streets. . But proposed city budget cuts threaten to eliminate this very important program.
RAPP is administered by three New York City, non-profit, community-based organizations: CAMBA, Center Against Domestic Violence, and STEPS to End Family Violence. The program uses a standard model of delivery, but its greatest strength comes from the program’s flexibility and adaptability at each school site. RAPP organizations provide a full-time social worker who coordinates with a school official to tailor the program to meet a specific school’s needs. Workshops are offered during the school day for 3-5 sessions in which students develop Safety Plans and are able to recognize symptoms of abuse. The program also provides continuous training for school staff, parents and community members. If students need further help and resources, they are referred to group and individual counseling. RAPP also provides an intensive Peer Leadership summer program that has a great record of participants who go on to college.
RAPP has a proven record of success and is an asset in many schools and communities; it should be expanded to include more teens. However, last year was the first year that RAPP was not included in the city’s executive budget. Currently, the entire program costs $3 million, approximately $60 per student, making it one of the most cost-effective preventive programs administered by the city. After providers and clients, including program graduates, lobbied city officials, the City Council restored partial funding with the Human Resources Administration contributing the remaining funds. But this year, RAPP faces similar fiscal challenges. Providers and clients must again fight for the program’s survival in the wake of some of the largest cuts to human services the city has ever seen.
“Kids are surrounded and inundated with violence on a daily basis in their homes, communities, and in the media,” says Rona Solomon, Deputy Director at the Center Against Domestic Violence. “Instead of funding effective preventative programs like RAPP, the city puts more police and metal detectors in schools, making the environment uncomfortable for schools and communities.” This is not a viable or sustainable policy solution. Solomon also points out that at many schools, the RAPP room is the only safe space for LGBTQ students, and she fears what will happen to those students if RAPP is eliminated.
Teen RAPP saves New York Citymillions in potential costs related to medical treatment, hospitalization, juvenile detention, teen pregnancy, shelter placement and other social services. Teen RAPP asks the New York City Council to re-appropriate the $3 million funding for this vital program in the New York City FY2012 budget.
Help thousands of NYC teens live free from bullying, violence and abuse:
Go to www.saveteenrapp.com
Click on the “Take Action” button urging Legislators to preserve funding for RAPP -The largest Violence Prevention Program in the U.S.
Contributed by Stephanie Hakes
of the Human Services Council of NYC
 Information and statistics about the teen RAPP program were contributed by the participating providers: CAMBA, STEPS to End Family Violence, and the Center Against Domestic Violence specifically, Ms. Rona Solomon, Deputy Director at the Center Against Domestic Violence.