Township and county officials to recognize national awareness program for youth violence


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Hillsborough Township municipal officials recognized a nationwide effort to address the serious issue of teen dating violence at a recent meeting.

The Hillsborough Township Committee recognized February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month at a Feb. 11 meeting.

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The initiative was founded in 2016 by then U.S. President Barack Obama to raise awareness about abuse in teen and young relationships as well as promote programs to prevent it.

In his “Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month Proclamation,” Obama urged Americans “to stand against dating violence when we see it.”

According to a study by, nationwide, youths between the ages 12-19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.

“Approximately 10% of adolescents also report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year. Females are particularly vulnerable to experiencing violence in their relationships and are more likely to suffer long-term behavioral and health consequences, including suicide attempts, eating disorders, and drug use,” according to

In acknowledgment of the national awareness program, Hillsborough Township Deputy Mayor Shawn Lipani joined Hillsborough High School Student Assistance Counselor Rebecca Balaguer to bring attention to the matter.

“The Hillsborough Township Committee declares February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and encourages all Hillsborough residents to join the campaign and become concerned about the violence that occurs every day to our country’s teens in the hope of reaching a day where no young person knows the pain caused by dating violence,” Lipani said.

Officials said dating violence may include physical force, such as hitting or shoving, emotional abuse, such as constant monitoring, or sexual assault. Teens are easily influenced by their early relationships, and the example set by those relationships can have a lasting impact on their lives, officials said.

“Violent dating relationships can lead to depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and thoughts of suicide. Approximately one in ten teenagers report being physically or sexually victimized by a dating partner, while many other victims do not report it at all,” officials said.

Upon a proclamation reading from Lipani, Balaguer expressed her stance on the matter, which she said is important to be engaged with in order to prevent future cases in the community.

“I think it’s important that everyone join Hillsborough High School and the community in spreading awareness of teen dating violence,” Balaguer said. “It’s important that our students and children know what the signs and symptoms are, where to get help, and how to be in healthy relationships. More importantly, how to get out of an unhealthy relationship.”

In addition to Hillsborough’s recognition of this national awareness program, the Somerset County Office of Youth Services is also the host to a Feb. 28 workshop, titled “Teen Dating Violence” to learn about teen dating violence, its prevalence, current trends and how it manifests. Officials said participants will also learn to identify unhealthy adolescent relationships, begin a conversation with a teenager and make them aware of available resources.

The event is free and will be held from 9 – 11:30 a.m. in the first-floor conference room at the Somerset County Human Services Building, located at 27 Warren Street. Officials said registration opens at 8:30 a.m., and participants are encouraged to bring their own coffee and snacks. Free parking is available in the adjacent parking deck, third level or higher. Walk-ins are welcome.

Presenters will include Aditi Mahapatra, Sexual Assault Support Services Prevention & Outreach Coordinator, and Mariana Suarez Al-Adam, Confidential Sexual Violence Advocate Coordinator.

To register, contact Gretchen Craig at or 908-704-6333. Professional development credits will be made available. For more information, contact Cindy Britt at or 908-704-6352.

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