Reynoldsburg City Council unanimously approved three resolutions last week sponsored by Councilman Cornelius McGrady III that are designed to raise community awareness about teen dating violence, sexual assaults and child abduction.
The resolutions approved Nov. 12 by council proclaimed February 2014 as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month; April 2014 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and May 2014 as National Missing Children Month.
McGrady said teen dating violence is a serious and growing problem in communities all over the nation.
"One in three teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, choked or physically hurt by their partner," he said.
He said it is estimated that more than 40,000 teenage girls, ages 15-19, in Ohio alone, are victimized in intimate dating relationships.
The resolution states that efforts such as the Jewish Family Services campaign "Let's Talk Respect" help students organize school assemblies and community events to bring greater awareness about violence against women and girls.
McGrady has worked with Reynoldsburg school officials and DECA students for the past two years to organize awareness events about missing children and human trafficking.
He said the next Community Human Trafficking Awareness Event in Reynoldsburg is planned for January 2014.
BELL Academy junior Myles Stanley said he became interested in the issues during his freshman and sophomore years while attending the DECA assemblies. He is a close neighbor of McGrady's and volunteered to help raise awareness of international abduction and human trafficking at the Truro Township Fire Department open house last month.
"My job at the event ranged from handing out flyers to education for people who had never heard of the subject," Stanley said. "Human trafficking is an issue that happens every day and people do not even notice. Most people do not know that every age group, male and female, can be kidnapped and placed in underground trafficking rings.
"It is even hard for police to track down the trafficking rings because it is an ongoing crime," he said. "It is not like we are trying to scare people into not going anywhere, but we are making sure that people are educated and alert."
McGrady worked with Lisa Carroll, a former Reynoldsburg tennis coach, now working with Jewish Family Services of Columbus, to bring a 10-week Safe Dates program to BELL Academy.
The program is in its fourth week at BELL, with 25 girls participating. On Feb. 11, the group will be involved in a "Let's Talk Respect" school assembly that promotes "Tina's Law," also known as the Tina Croucher Act, named for a young woman in southwest Ohio who was shot and killed by her boyfriend.
The law, which took effect March 29, 2010, requires Ohio public school districts to incorporate and address dating violence in their policies and programming.
"We hope to have 900 students dressed in purple Let's Talk Respect T-shirts," Carroll said. "The event is to help raise awareness, promote the law and showcase our amazing Reynoldsburg students who are acting as pure educators to spread the message."
Carroll is also teaching a Safe Dates program in Gahanna schools. She was expected to begin community training Nov. 17, with 40-plus girls from different schools.
"The law is an unfunded mandate for schools, so we are trying to find ways schools can fit it into programs after school," she said. "One in three girls will experience some kind of emotional, cyber, physical or sexual abuse by the time the school year ends.
"One of the things we looked at in Franklin County was the fact there was a lot of work being done with preventing domestic violence, but not teen dating violence," she said.
Carroll said Jewish Family Services received generous donations from Jeri Block and Bobby Schottenstein for the Safe Dates program.
"It is my hope to get many more teachers involved so that we can create a teachers' training model," she said. "We are also encouraging the girls to become true social agents for the entire school, sharing how to recognize people at risk and when to seek help from adults."
Carroll is a mental health professional who has been working in violence prevention for the past 20 years.
McGrady was recently asked to be chairman of the Demand Reduction Division of the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition, which works to raise public awareness and looks for ways to stop human trafficking.