Wisdom of the Ages: Healthy Relationships Across Generations

By Jacke Schroeder, LCSW-C, Director of SAFE: Stop Abuse of Elders

Barbi Hyman, z’l and I were sitting at the table one Monday morning after our staff meeting discussing how when people hear us speak the word “abuse” it’s as if we’ve broken taboo.  We discovered that whether one of us was talking about teen dating violence or the other was talking about elder abuse, often people said, “No, that doesn’t happen in our community!”

We acknowledged how we would like nothing more than to tell people they were correct.  But, unfortunately, it is happening right here in our community, just like it is in every community – where one out of four women will experience relationship abuse within their lifetime.

At that moment we became inspired and curious about what we would find if we looked at abuse through a multigenerational lens.  So we put our teen dating violence and elder abuse presentations side-by-side on our computer screens.  We were nothing short of speechless! It was then that we realized how these subjects connected and how education could go hand-in-hand.

When thinking about co-educationing we looked at these questions: What is teen dating violence? What is elder abuse?  What are types of dating abuse and types of elder abuse? Why is it happening in the world of teens? Why is it happening in the world of elders?

We looked at the statistics. Nationwide, nearly  2.2 million reports of elder abuse are made annually.  Only one in 24 cases is reported; 23 cases are unreported. Adult children and grandchildren are responsible for 66% and spouses for 19% of elder abuse cases.

We knew we had to make everyone aware by bringing the findings to our community.  Until that time, awareness and education presentations about teen dating violence and elder abuse were given independently.  Barbi and I dreamed that for the first time we would travel together like a “dog and pony show” giving presentations about healthy relationships across generations to convince people that intergenerational awareness can help bring an end to intimate partner violence and to the silence.  The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.

We created an informative program to help people nurture and guide one another across generations and create relationships with a balance of power and are based on safety, equality and respect.

Our first stop was in November, 2016 at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.  BH Cares and the Sisterhood sponsored the event.   Immediately following, North Oaks contacted us with an invitation for January, 2017.  It would have been our second stop.  Very sadly, Barbi unexpectedly passed away on November 29.  I gave the presentation in honor of Barbi to another enthusiastic group at North Oaks and a presenation for June is being planned at Temple Oheb Shalom.

Fortunately, it doesn’t end here.  Zoe Reznick Gewanter has joined CHANA as our new Youth Educator.  Along with Zoe’s knowledge and experience she brings great spirit.  We are looking forward to joining together for continuing what Barbi and I started.

Relationship Statistics

- At the same time, one in five million reports of teen dating violence are made annually. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.

- One in five female high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.

- Nearly half (43%) of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

- College students are not equipped to deal with dating abuse – 57% say it is difficult to identify and 58% say they don’t know how to help someone who’s experiencing it.

- Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.

- About 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.

- Three in four parents have never talked to their children about dating violence.