County-wide effort in partnership with the Safe Center LI comes on “Purple Thursday,” a national day of action each October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Nassau County, NY – Yesterday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced the “Safe Dates” initiative, a push to implement a free abusive dating prevention program in middle schools and high schools across the County. The program “Safe Dates,” strives to help teens recognize signs of an unhealthy relationship and arm them with skills to develop healthy ones to ultimately avoid patterns that could lead to mental health issues, substance abuse and domestic violence. The program comes at no cost to the schools and is presented by Safe Center LI, the County’s nonprofit partner, with support from Curran’s Family & Domestic Violence Task Force.
The initiative was announced on “Purple Thursday,” a national day of action each October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and as the tragic death of Long Island’s Gabby Petito continues to shed light on the importance of educating young people on the issue. To further promote the program, the County and Safe Center will host a virtual education session and Q&A for the public – including students, parents, and educators – through Facebook live on Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 6:00pm.
“Nassau County continues to expand services and provide unwavering support for victims of abusive relationships, while working on the grass roots level to break the cycle with education and early intervention like the Safe Dates program,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “The recent tragic death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito has underscored the importance of ensuring our young people recognize the red flags of an unhealthy relationship and arming them with the tools to develop healthy ones. With the Safe Dates initiative, we urge our schools to sign up and join our commitment to stop the cycle of domestic and dating violence in its tracks.”
Senator Anna M. Kaplan said “The Gabby Petito tragedy underscores the dire need to teach our kids about the dangerous reality of controlling and abusive relationships, and early education is the key to ensuring they learn how to make healthy decisions, and learn the signs of potential danger ahead. Nassau County’s new Safe Dates Initiative is a critical resource to help our kids learn about healthy relationships, and I urge every school district in our community to sign up to offer these free educational workshops to their students. I applaud Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and the Safe Center for this innovative partnership that will undoubtedly help countless children in our community.”
“The Nassau County Police Department strongly suggests and recommends that all victims of domestic violence report all incidents to the police department immediately,” said Commissioner of Police Patrick Ryder. “Once a report is made, our police officers can assist our victims with referrals and services as they move forward to eliminate the cycle of violence and abuse. Our police liaisons located in each precinct and headquarters are also trained to monitor and identify a variety of issues and concerns that may negatively affect our victims and their families. We continue to work with the Safe Center to offer numerous resources that will lead to a positive outcome.”
“Conversations about healthy relationships and boundaries should start as soon as possible to help protect children. The Safe Center’s free program, Safe Dates, provides comprehensive, age appropriate, tools for children to use in recognizing warning signs of unhealthy relationship while fostering skills that build upon positive relationships,” said Keith Scott, Director of Education at The Safe Center LI.
The “Safe Dates” initiative highlights the difference between healthy and safe behavior in relationships and unhealthy or abusive behavior by teaching student’s healthy communication, boundaries, trust and support, and mutual respect within relationships. The program equips young people with the tools needed to recognize red flags in a relationship and provides information on what steps they can take if they see signs of unhealthy or abusive behavior in a relationship. The “Safe Date” initiative brings awareness and information about dating violence to young people and works towards reducing behaviors that lead to dating violence in the first place,” said Jeanine Diehl, Esq. Executive Director Nassau County Office of Crime Victim Advocate.
“Safe Dates is an important initiative in stemming the cycle of violence and promoting the health, mental health and well-being of our young people in Nassau County,” said Nancy Nunziata, Commissioner of Social Services and Chair of Nassau’s Family & Domestic Violence Task Force.
The County Executive made the announcement alongside school officials at Elmont Memorial High School, highlighting the County’s commitment to implement this program in schools located in minority communities, in an effort to address the disproportionate impact domestic and dating violence has on black and brown teens.
The Safe Center has been providing the “Safe Dates” program to schools in Nassau for the past five years but only six or seven schools typically participate. With a renewed effort, the County will be working to expand the program throughout Nassau’s 56 school districts.
The “Safe Dates” curriculum constantly evolves to include culturally relevant issues, relevant current events and updates on laws like those related to sexting and revenge porn. The County Executive cited signing a bill in March 2019 that outlaws distributing intimate photographs without consent. The offense, often referred to as “revenge porn,” is now punishable by up to a year in jail.
“Safe Dates” is just the latest County initiative to combat domestic violence. Nassau County PD raised the alarm early about a disturbing uptick in domestic violence calls during the pandemic, citing a 10% increase in early 2020 – before leveling off with the reopening of businesses.
The County worked with the Safe Center to offer more help for victims including a 24-hour hotline, shelter and child advocacy services. To promote resources available, the County created and utilized a multi-agency Public Safety Announcement, imploring community engagement in assisting victims of familial violence during COVID-19. Additionally, the County expanded language access to ensure that all victims have access to victim’s services.
More than 5,000 victims of domestic violence are receiving services through the County’s domestic violence agencies: The Safe Center LI, Circulo de la Hispanidad and Domestic Harmony, the County’s newest partner in combating family and domestic violence in the South Asian and Muslim communities.
Those in need of assistance or who may know someone who may be a victim, please call: