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Grant helps teens recognize signs of dating violence

Woman seated on couch smiling
Nikki Washington

Sept. 11, 2007, is a day Akron resident Nikki Washington will never forget. It was on this day that Nikki took back her independence and walked through the doors of the Battered Women's Shelter with her five children.

From the outside, Nikki looked like a typical woman, but on the inside, she had become an entirely different person after years of being trapped in a controlling cycle of abuse. "I felt like another abusive episode – physically or mentally – would kill me," she said. "My kids didn't ask to come into this world like that."

This year, a Women's Endowment Fund grant to the Battered Women's Shelter is helping to make sure future generations of girls don't find themselves in Nikki's frightening situation. The fund awarded $5,000 for the Tina Project, which works to prevent teen dating violence by educating both boys and girls in schools and the juvenile court system. 

The Battered Women's Shelter helped design this project to address the growing epidemic of teen dating violence. One recent study showed one out of every five teens has been hit, slapped or pushed by their romantic partner. 

Teens who participate in the Tina Project learn about the warning signs of an abusive relationship and have the opportunity to talk with a trained instructor about their own situation. With the help of the Women's Endowment Fund grant, the Tina Project will reach approximately 2,780 students this year. 

"By offering outreach education to the community, we can diminish or prevent violence from occurring," said BWS Executive Director Terri Heckman.

Often, as in the case of the Battered Women's Shelter and the Tina Project, the impact that these organizations have on women lasts a lifetime. "My kids see how I've changed and see that people can change," Nikki said. "That's the best gift I could have been given."

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