Monday, November 7, 2011

Teen Suicide Rate on the Rise

The recent suicide of 17-year-old Dan Behar has once again put a spotlight on teen suicide. And there is one question raised again and again: What is happening among the youth?

"There are lots and lots of questions we will never have answers to," said Richard Lieberman, a psychologist for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "It's complex."

Lieberman was among the founders of the suicide prevention services within the LAUSD nearly 25 years ago. The services began when the number of suicides tripled in the 1980s and became the third leading cause of death for high school kids in the United States.

For youths between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide continues to be the third leading cause of death, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 4,400 youths take their lives each year

Between 1994 and 2003, there was an average of 26 youths each year who died in Los Angeles County as a result of suicide, Lieberman said. The average declined to 13 per year between 2004 to 2009, he said.

"It is such a hard topic to talk about and very often parents don't wish to discuss it as a suicide," Lieberman said. "There are no predictors of youth suicide."

Read more here

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Are Our Young Women Still Dying?

The death of Cindi Santana, 17, at the hands of her ex-boyfriend Abraham Lopez, 18, after a lunchtime argument at Southeast High School has once again brought a spotlight on teen dating violence, but the question is, why do we always have to wait for a young woman to die before we get serious about talking about teen dating violence?

Relationship Violence is a fact of life for too many young girls today. According to statistics provided by Break the Cycle:

      One in three teens experience some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse.

      40% of teenage girls, ages 14 to 17, know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by their partner.

      Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.

      1 in 4 teenage girls who have been in relationships reveal they have been pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse.

Yet, despite these startling statistics, we continue to act like relationship violence belongs in a conversation about anybody else but our young women and men. Too many times it seems that when parents realize their child is in an unhealthy relationship, even if there is no physical violence involved, they just wait for the relationship to flame out, since it's "young love" and just hope that chapter is behind their child. But what about the emotional scars?

In this case, Cindi's family did everything right. They called the police and had him arrested after an earlier threat and altercation, they told the school principal that Cindi was in danger, they did everything they could to keep her safe. It's a bitter pill for us to swallow, but a reminder of the real danger relationship violence victims are in on a daily basis.

Then there are the abusers, both young men and women who clearly need help to deal with their rage. We cannot afford to ignore  the signs of their dangerous behaviours because it can lead them to hurt others or themselves.  Abraham Lopez had to have been troubled for a long time, somebody close to him had to see the signs. Why did none of his family and friends step in and try to get him help before he took Cindi's life? Now let's be clear, nobody is responsible for Abraham's crimes, but Abraham, but we must intervene when we see our loved ones going down a dark path. We must teach our youth that strength is not used for hurting and abuse is not love.

Education is the key in helping break the cycle of violence early, so is conversation. How can a person protect themselves from a potential abuser if they are not educated about what signs to look for? For far too long domestic violence and relationship violence has been a dirty little secret and victims have been unable to seek help because of fear, shame or even the sense of hopelessness. Cindi's death is a tragedy, but if we forget about her after the headlines fade and lose sight of all the other young women and men who are victims of relationship violence, then we will just keep repeating this devastating cycle of "shock and awe" as our daughter and sons continue to die at the hand of those who claim to love them.

LAUSD Considers Expanding Its Teen Violence Programs

Less than two weeks after a student allegedly stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death on a high school campus in South Gate, the Los Angeles Unified board is set to consider expanding teen violence programs districtwide.

The proposal was introduced in August, but is receiving new attention with the arrest of Abraham Lopez, 18, on suspicion of murdering Cindi Santana, 17, after a lunchtime argument at Southeast High School.
Lopez faces up to life in prison with the possibility of parole if tried and convicted. Read more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hip Hop and Domestic Violence

Los Angeles County prosecutors say rapper Tone Loc has pleaded no contest to assault weapon possession and domestic violence charges stemming from an arrest earlier this year.
The rapper, whose real name is Anthony Smith, entered the plea Monday in a Burbank, Calif. courthouse. Smith pleaded no contest to one count each of possession of an assault weapon and corporal injury to a spouse. Read the story here.

Tone Loc isn't the only rapper that has been acussed of domestic violence against their spouse or partner. While the prevelance of domestic violence cannot be blamed on one thing, the question needs to be asked: Is there a realtionship between Hip Hop and Domestic Violence?

Myths About Relationship Violence

As we continue our month long discussion on relationship violence during Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, we continue to take a look at some more common myths about relationship violence. Relationships are complicated, but there are certain red flags that we should all be on the look out for that lets us know when we find ourselves in a relationship that is unhealthy for us.

IF He/She Hurts Me I Retaliate so I’m Not Being Abused. We’re Just Fighting: NOT TRUE
Domestic violence is when someone hurts you physically, verbally, mentally, financially, or sexually.
You should never have to defend yourself against someone you love or someone who claims to love you.

He/She is Giving Me A Good Life. I’d be a Fool to Give it Up: NOT TRUE
No life full of pain and fear is a good one, no matter how it may appear to others. You should never have to get used to being abused. You should never suffer in silence over material items when there are places like the Jenesse Center that has everything you need to start a new life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Domestic Violence Awareness Month and You!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it's a time for us to think about what we want to give and receive from relationships. Sometimes, we fall into unhealthy patterns with loved ones that don't make us happy, or we continue to make the ones we love unhappy. Each week we will be posting some common myths about realtionships. We don't always know we are being abused, or that we are abusing others, but once we get the facts we can work on how to change things for the better.

Some Common Myths About Relationship Violence

Domestic Violence Can’t Happen to Me: NOT TRUE
Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence no matter your race, age, gender, or social background.

Everybody Has Drama in Their Relationship. It’s Just How Life Is: NOT TRUE
While no relationship is perfect, there are some behaviors that are not acceptable. There is nothing normal about expecting to be belittled and/or brutalized on a daily bases. There is nothing normal about having to wonder if this is the day that one wrong word or misstep costs you your life. You should be able to communicate with the person who you are in a relationship with and you should enjoy a partnership built on trust and respect.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Let YOUR VOICE be heard!
Jenesse Center, Inc. wants to hear what you think about relationship violence.

October: Domestic Violence Awareness And Prevention Month
During the month of October, Jenesse will be holding weekly on-line forum discussions on young adults and relationships as part of our Abuse ≠Love Campaign. Join us every Monday, beginning October, 3, 2011, as a new question is posted on our BeSoYou! FacebookPage each week. Also, you may post your own questions to be answered. Participating is as easy as 1,2,3….

1.Just log onto Facebook
2.Search for BeSoYou!
3.Join the conversation.

Your Say!
Have a story that you would like to share about relationship violence? Post it on our BeSoYou! blog. Visit the blog at Also, read relevant stories on young adult relationship violence all month long.

February: Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month
During the Month of February, Jenesse will be hosting a special interactive media forum to commemorate Teen Dating Violence Month. We want your videos, songs, poems, essays and writings to post on our Abuse≠LoveCampaign Web Page. Entries will be accepted beginning January1, 2011 up until February 29, 2012.

For more information about The Abuse≠Love Campaign,or to learn how to get involved, call Angela Parker at (323)299,9496, ext.109. or at You can visit Jenesse’sofficialwebsite at:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Watching Amy's Story

Last night I watched an intriguing documentary called Telling Amy’s Story. It involves a woman who was murdered by her abusive husband from a prolonging physical and emotional relationship. As I watched the movie, I had an entity of mixed emotions since I am versed in the signs of domestic violence. It was difficult for me to understand why no one assisted Amy along the way. The most frustrating part is that I couldn’t help her and that I just had to sit there to witness the ending results. After a discussion about it with friends and having a night to sleep on it, I have a better understating of the documentary. I was able to take two steps back and visualize myself as the victim or a friend of Amy’s the documentary as a whole is very good and I took a lot away from it.  There are new signs that I learned about that I would’ve never been able to notify; I would’ve thought that it was just young love. I think everyone should see this documentary because it is a good learning tool to learn about signs of domestic violence and a lesson to my generation about making a “happy ending” in such a torturous, series of unfortunate events. MUST SEE GO WATCH NOW!!!


Jordan Ferguson

To learn more about Telling Amy's Story visit the official website.

Using My Voice for Change

Jenesse Center Youth Leader Bryson Rouzan-Thomas and his group The Change will be hosting their second annual Youth Conversations in collaboration with Jenesse Center's BeSo You! program. Below Bryson talks about his experience with Jenesse in his own words.

A couple weeks ago, I had a chance to volunteer at Jenesse's third annual 'Camp Jenesse', a summer camp that I co-founded with Ariel Gilliam and Angela Parker in the summer of 2009. Angela Parker has done a fascinating job in promoting the camp and enriching the goal/purpose of why it was founded; creating the "summer of a lifetime" for the Jenesse children. My day of service had a theme which involved incorporating music and helping children find "the art within them". Unbeknownst to me, something so little affected me so greatly. Sitting watching the kids play "Dance Freeze", listening to Katy Perry's "Firework", everything came together. 

"You don't have to feel like a waste of space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow
 Maybe your reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will glow
And when it's time, you'll know"

It seems so cliché, yet when you think about it, the message of being yourself and boosting your confidence fits so perfectly. The idea of igniting the light within you and showing the world who are you are and what your capabilities consist of. I write this email out of inspiration. I have been inspired to do good within my community which is why I strive to be the best role model I can be whether I am around my peers, Jenesse families, or even strangers. Each person has the ability to give back; to use their voice for "the greater good". I use my voice to be an agent of change for my generation. The greatest reward I have received is the ability to see the hearts that have been touched because of the precious time donated to acknowledge the spark in each child; to prove that someone really is listening.
I even had the chance to sit down with "The Change" last week and view "Telling Amy's Story"; a documentary about Amy, a former Verizon employee who lost her life due to an emotionally and physically abusive husband (this will be shown at our upcoming Youth Conversations 2011). Originally, I did not think that the group would be interested in the movie, however, I saw an array of emotions that followed with an abundance of questions and an extended conversation. This proved that the time to "break the silence" is over. Our generation is ready. Are you?

I use my voice to help our next generation identify their qualities and to embrace their weaknesses. I am the change. I am hope. So are you.

Truly Yours,

Bryson Rouzan-Thomas

The George Washington University '15
The Change Executive Director
Youth Conversations Chair

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Frenemies --- When Friendships Become Unhealthy

Sometimes we are so focused on our romantic relationships that we don't take stock of how healthy our other relationships are. This seems to be especially true in our friendships in which the people we count on for support are often times the people who are trying to sabotage us. This type of love/hate relationship has been dubbed having a frenemy and has gained a type of coolness factor in popular culture. But it it really alright to have toxic people in your life? Dr. Irene S. Levine, Professor of Psychology at NYU Langone School of Medicine, defines a frenemy as “someone with whom you have an ambivalent friendship.” According to Levine, who has been called “The Friendship Doctor” by the Huffington Post and, “the person seems to be a friend, but then has periodic or frequent lapses in behavior that are antagonistic or undermining.”

Frenemies make themselves known if you really pay attention to them. We’ve all heard their catty remarks:
You’re going to eat all of that?”
“You just started studying for the History exam? I started three weeks ago.”
“I thought you said you were working out!”
“I mean, I don’t think he’s attractive but I guess you like guys like that.”

We come across these types of friendships throughout their lives: In pre-school, it’s the girl/boy who befriends you just so he/she can play with your brand new toy. In middle school, he/she slips love letters in your crush’s locker. In high school, he/she was secretly pleased when you didn’t get into the college of your dreams.

“I think we live in a very competitive culture in which (we) are expected to excel and achieve in multiple areas of life. We’re supposed to be extremely attractive, successful in our careers and our personal lives,” says Lucinda Rosenfeld author of  I’m So Happy for You: A Novel About Best Friends on frenemies and the love/hate relationships that we create with our female friends.  “It creates a lot of pressure and I think some of that pressure ends up getting passed on to our friends and especially those friends with whom we’ve never felt entirely secure.”

So what do you do when a friend reveals herself to be a frenemy? 

  • Let go gradually --- "If your frenemy is bringing you down, you don’t deserve it. It’s time to get rid of him/her. If he/she keeps making mistakes and you see that the friendship has no redeeming qualities, you have to break it off,” says Lavinthal.“(But) before you dump someone or try to mutually end a friendship, you need to do so cautiously because there’s no going back,” says Levine. "Downgrade the friendship so you become more of a casual aquantiance."
  • Evaluate the situation ---  Was this a one-time thing or has this person let you down on numerous occasions? Have you been communicating clearly? How will this break-up affect your mutual friends?
 What if I Am the Frenemy?
  • Take a step back and examine the situation. Remember that this is an important time in our lives to make lasting friendships. It’s not too late to change.
  • Consider why you’ve been acting like a frenemy, and whether this is someone whom you would like to be a real friend to instead.
So, appreciate the good friends you have and put your time into those that create a positive energy in your life. Remember, you can always make new friends.

Based on Frenemies: When Friendships Become Toxic By Cassie Potler for Her Campus