Mayor Bloomberg’s Fiscal Year 2013 City budget proposal completely eliminated funding for Teen RAPP (Relationship Abuse Prevention Program), the largest domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying program of its kind. Previously funded by the Domestic Violence Division of the New York City Human Resources Administration, RAPP is the City’s most cost-efficient social intervention program, currently serving over 50,000 students in over 62 middle and high schools in New York City at a cost of $59 per student annually.
Economic times are tough and budgets are getting tighter, but what does such a severe cut mean for teens and their communities now, and what impact will this have in the future?
In New York City, one in ten students has reported experiencing physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship, which makes the educational and counseling services RAPP provides to middle and high school students especially important. RAPP not only raises awareness about dating violence, but also offers supportive counseling and education on healthy relationships. Schools participating in RAPP receive a full-time social worker who offers in-class violence prevention workshops as well as staff, parent, and community member trainings. A seven week summer Peer Leadership Program teaches teens to become peer counselors to support and lead each other in avoiding violence.
A study of dating violence among high school students found that nearly 80% of teens who were physically abused in their relationships continued to date their abusers. Patterns of abuse have long lasting impacts on individuals and communities, and intervening now means breaking a cycle of violence that could go on forever. Comprehensive educational programs like RAPP have been found to reduce physical and sexual dating violence by as much as 60 percent. And the cost? $3 million dollars, a measly sum compared to what domestic violence costs us in addition medical treatment, hospitalizations, and emergency shelter services later down the line.
As most cases of domestic violence are not reported to the police, we need to support networks of youth and families in their efforts to combat abuse and prevent it from occurring in the future. Administered by CAMBA, the Center Against Domestic Violence, and STEPS to End Family Violence, Teen RAPP is led by organizations with ties to their communities. But with zero funding, these non-profit community based organizations will not have the resources to continue these services. Teen RAPP is no stranger to budget threats, and although the Mayor has proposed eliminating the program for the past two years RAPP has successfully advocated for the support of the City Council in restoring funding for their programs.
Contributed by Ana Billingsley of the Human Services Council.
 Libby Bergman, “Dating Violence Among High School Students,” Social Work 37 (1992) 23.