Safe Passage, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals and families in Ripley, Franklin, Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland counties live strong, safe lives that are free of violence, was established in 1997. Since that time, its staff and volunteers have provided domestic violence victim services and support through a 24-hour help line, residential shelter and outreach services.
A youth council was established in October 2013. “We believe that it is important to have ... (this group) so we can bring awareness and education to our community about dating violence that is occurring ... (in this area) to prevent domestic violence in the future,” reports Samantha Santen, youth program coordinator.
“The teens in this group volunteer their time to make a community impact, be peer leaders and work on service projects related to the issue of dating violence. Last year, Safe Passage conducted student surveys at Batesville High School and found that 44 percent of students knew someone in a violent relationship; 27 percent had experienced hitting, slapping, shoving or other physical abuse; 15 percent reported forced sex; and 35 percent ... experienced an overly jealous or possessive partner in their relationship.
“The national statistic stands at one in three adolescents will be a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. This issue is why we praise our youth council for standing up against abuse and making a difference in our community. The goal of this group is to educate their peers, parents, adults and the community about the issue of dating abuse to help them understand how to identify what is healthy, how to talk to their children and how to make a difference in the lives of others,” she reveals.
Layne Kirchoff, 17, a Batesville High School junior, says, “I first became interested in the council when Sam Santen visited during one of our Mayor’s Youth Council meetings. She told us she was interested in beginning a youth council that would work with Safe Passage, and she was asking for volunteers. Something about this idea really stuck out to me. I liked the idea of creating a council of teenagers that would also be helping other teenagers. I decided I wanted to make a difference.”