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Teen violence prevention program launches summer campaign

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Goal to get RAVE back in 50 classrooms this school year aimed at stopping the cycle of violence
RAVE empowers Grand Rapids teens to live violence free with healthy relationships

RAVE empowers Grand Rapids teens to live violence free with healthy relationships /David Chandler

Save RAVE Campaign

Physical aggression occurs in one in three teen dating relationships. This violence is preventable. Resources Against Violent Encounters (RAVE) stops the cycle of violence by empowering teens with the skills and confidence to avoid or escape abusive relationships. Join Family Futures this summer in raising funds to serve 50 classrooms in the 2013-14 school year. RSVP for the campaign kickoff event Thursday June 13 at the Women’s City Club.

It started because of a need. The need to break the cycle of violence, spinning faster and faster throughout our community.

And now it’s a program in need – a need for funding to stay in our schools where it can make an impact.

Founded in 1994 a decade after the rape and murder of Mary Murch, Resources Against Violent Encounters (RAVE) is a program that empowers teens to have healthy relationships – while recognizing an unhealthy relationships and how to get out of them. The program, once a stand-alone organization and now run by Family Futures, does three to nine sessions in middle and high school classrooms with engaging and interactive curriculum to empower our next generation to live violence-free.

Honoring Mary: RAVE begins

To her family, Mary Murch’s death was at first a random, horrific act of violence. The 17-year-old who took her life was a complete stranger – knocking on the door of her apartment one night, asking to use her phone.

But then Lana Murch, Mary’s sister-in-law, dug deeper.

“A few years after it all, I reviewed his records from the court,” Murch said. “I found out he was horribly abused and neglected as a child. That’s when I realized this is a cycle of violence.”

In those years, additional violence continued to open Murch’s eyes – her mother’s friend killed, a neighbor’s daughter raped and abducted. Murch said she felt called to take action, but wanted to do something that would go to the root of it all – something that could prevent violence from ever happening.

“This was something personally I could do that would honor the memory of Mary, to make her death have meaning and to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Murch said. “What happens when children are abused? They grow up and do things like this. They are so broken. It doesn’t take away from the fact that they did it and are responsible and need to be punished, but on the other level it’s just this cycle.”

Murch and her friend Constance Grzanka co-founded RAVE. The two were focused on proactive and systemic change through prevention education, awareness and advocacy. The program would go in middle and high school classrooms with a curriculum designed specially for teens to promote healthy relationships and end abusive ones.

“There was nothing like that at the time,” Murch said.

RAVE grows, joins Family Futures

Serving a large portion of Grand Rapids Public Schools and others, RAVE grew steadily. With an increasing demand for service, the program merged with Family Futures in 1999 (at the time, Family Futures was called the Child and Family Resource Council). Most of Family Futures’ programming is geared toward parents with young children. But with a goal of preventing abuse and neglect, and knowing the abuse that Mary’s killer went through as a child, Murch saw it as a perfect fit.

“It’s all tied together,” she said. “Family Futures is committed to prevention and believes prevention is the most effective way to protect children, youth and families from abuse and neglect.”

Now on the verge of 20 years, RAVE is struggling with sustainable funding. Grants and public dollars are not as readily available as they once were. This past winter, Family Futures had to put the program on hiatus with no funding remaining for serving additional classrooms.

“This program is desperately needed – without it there is no program in our schools encouraging healthy relationships,” said Lucy Joswick, the Family Futures Community Development Director and a former RAVE participant herself. “Violence is preventable. That’s why we must keep RAVE going.”

Save RAVE: A campaign to sustain

This summer, Family Futures aims to do just that with the Save RAVE campaign. The goal is to raise $12,500 from donors within the community. With the average cost of $250 to serve a classroom, the campaign would allow 50 classrooms in the 2013-14 school year to receive RAVE programming. Individuals can sign up to adopt a classroom that they’ll raise funds for, and when they do, they’ll become a part of the new Violence Free Society launching as part of the campaign.

The campaign begins this Thursday, June 13 with a kickoff event at the Women’s City Club. The event will let people experience the program firsthand, as they stroll through a variety of 10-minute mini-sessions run by RAVE facilitators, covering topics like media influence and power and control exercises.

“We hope when people see the program up close and feel what it’s like to be a teen experiencing these things, they’ll be inspired to be a part of this group that supports RAVE,” Joswick said.

The campaign will wrap up with a celebration event in August – just in time to prep for a new school year of bringing RAVE to classrooms throughout Grand Rapids.

“I believe that prevention is one of the most effective ways to promote healthy and safe relationships and to protect children, youth and families from abuse and violence,” Murch said. “This work is important to make a difference – for Mary and all individuals who have been victims of abuse or violence.”

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