Monday, April 13, 2009

Longtime Brooklyn Activist Leads New Task Force

Photo courtesy: Georgine Benvenuto

Seated at left is Dr. Nicoletta Pallotta, Founder of Women Against Violence, a Brooklyn-based violence prevention organization.
Seated at right is Brooklyn’s Deputy Borough President Yvonne J. Graham.
Behind them stands community leaders making up the Teen Violence Task Force.

Teen Dating Violence Seen as Skyrocketing
by Harold Egeln (, published online 04-13-2009

Longtime Brooklyn Activist Leads New Task Force
By Harold Egeln
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BAY RIDGE — The leaders and staff of Women Against Violence, with offices based in Bay Ridge, have seen the terrible results of domestic violence and have worked to prevent and repair the damage it has caused to people’s lives for over a decade.

Now Dr. Nicoletta Pallotta, founder and chairperson of the violence prevention and intervention organization at 9201 Fourth Ave. and director of Brooklyn Women’s Services, a Maimonides Medical Center affiliate, has been tapped to lead the new Borough President’s Task Force on Teen Violence. “The ultimate goal of the task force is to reduce the intimate partner violence among teens by encouraging real changes in behavior,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz. “We need to teach all of our kids at as young an age as possible that violence is never an acceptable response.”

The first meeting of the task force was held recently at Borough Hall with two dozen Brooklyn social service agencies, chaired by Dr. Pallotta, calling the teen years “an extraordinary vulnerable time.” A follow-up organizational meeting is planned for May 5.

“I am honored to serve as chair of this special task force and as the borough president’s liaison with Brooklyn’s community leaders,” said Dr. Pallotta. “It has been my longtime goal to stop the cycle of violence and abuse. This task force is an important step towards the youth of Brooklyn staying free of violence in all aspects of their life.”

“Teen abuse incidents are on the rise in New York City and appear to be increasing as more harassment, name-calling and ridicule are taking place on the internet and by cell phone,” Markowitz noted. “Teens are embarrassed to admit they are being mistreated. Therefore, abuse goes unnoticed by parents, teachers and counselors.”

The number of teen calls to the city’s Domestic Violence Hotline has risen dramatically, from 9,462 in 2006 up to 16,861 in 2007. Women, ages 20 to 24, are at the greatest risk of nonfatal partner violence. In the city in 2007, according to the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, 11 percent of high school students reported being hit, slapped, or physically injured by a boy or girl friend.

Dating, Internet and Cell Phone Abuse Up

Not only are dating abuse and violence getting worse and rising, but also abuse through the Internet, Facebook and cell phones. Name-calling, putdowns and mean remarks through these venues are not being fully reported, The New York Times noted in a study recently.

“Technology has made abuse more pervasive and hidden,” Dr. Pallotta stated in her Borough Hall presentation. “Teens believe that dating abuse is a serious problem, but teens are typically not telling their parents. The result is a knowledge gap has opened between the frequency of abusive tech behavior parents are aware of and what is really going on.”

Therefore, parents do not intercede, she said, leaving teens vulnerable without primary support and guidance. The task force will work to remedy this.

A goal is to increase awareness about teen violence by focusing attention, Markowitz said, and educating teens, civic leaders and parents on how to address this subject “to stop the cycle of violence and abuse.” Ways include, he said, community outreach, research, advocacy, education, publicity, intervention and training.

The recent much-publicized case of singer Rihanna being attacked by boyfriend Chris Brown was cited by Deputy Borough President Yvonne Graham as an example of intimate partner violence. With Rihanna reportedly returning to Brown, Graham said that the case “highlights the complex emotional dynamics of both victim and abuser” that need to be understood and addressed in order for the task force to do its job successfully.

“It is our hope that the Brooklyn Task Force on Teenage Violence can help empower our youth,” said Graham. “First by identifying the different forms that abuse can take and then reaching out to those affected and connecting them to the resources they need to combat violence.”

“The task force will look for ways to provide education of teens, their parents and teachers,” said Sofia Pallotta, executive director of Women Against Violence and Dr. Pallotta’s niece. “The task force aims to pool the community social services’ resources, offer more teen rap sessions for talking about problems, and prepare intervention and proactive programs which may employ making videos or creating performance pieces.”

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