Gift to Strength United Aims to Prevent Domestic Violence and Educate Youth

CSUN students share their message at a past event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Photo courtesy of Strength United.

CSUN students share their message at a past event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Photo courtesy of Strength United.

Children who are exposed to domestic violence in the home are particularly susceptible to continuing the cycle. Thanks to a $300,000 grant from J.B. & Emily Van Nuys Charities, Strength United — a chartered center established by the California State University, Northridge Michael D. Eisner College of Education to support individuals affected by violence, sexual abuse and trauma — will expand its Safe Dates program, aimed at educating youth on how to prevent dating violence, victimization and perpetration, with the goal of breaking the cycle.

“The impact of this generous donation from the J.B. & Emily Van Nuys Charities is far-reaching and will change the lives of young people and families in our communities,” CSUN President Erika D. Beck said. “Beyond our mission to elevate lives through transformative education, CSUN is a beacon of light for the region, providing resources and offering knowledge, hope and healing that go far beyond our campus. I’m deeply grateful for our longstanding partnership with the J.B. & Emily Van Nuys Charities and for the vision we share to address domestic violence prevention.”

Breaking the Cycle

Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicate that on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, equating to more than 10 million women and men in one year. In addition, 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year; 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

“Abuse in the home creates such trauma that it can be a ‘learned’ reaction to lifelong stress caused by many factors,” said Terry Dibble, president of the J.B. & Emily Van Nuys Charities (VNC), a fierce advocate of domestic violence prevention and a longtime supporter of Strength United and its Safe Dates program. “The cycle must be broken so that domestic violence does not continue within a family. Educating youth about what a healthy, loving relationship IS and CAN BE with a partner and with others generally goes a long way to breaking the cycle of violence. Also, through building of trust and positive relationships with counselors and educators who administer the programs, potential abusive situations can be discovered, and appropriate intervention options considered, to stop domestic violence taking place in the home.”

Strength United works with community leaders on prevention programs geared toward creating safer communities. Photo courtesy of Strength United.

Strength United works with community leaders on prevention programs geared toward creating safer communities. Photo courtesy of Strength United.

Geared toward middle school students, ages 11-14, the Safe Dates program has already made a powerful impact. The week-long, school-based curriculum incorporates themes and activities such as anger, healthy versus unhealthy coping strategies, relationship bingo, ways to treat a dating partner, consent, dealing with break-ups, and how to handle rejection. Hundreds of students in schools throughout the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys have engaged in the curriculum, much of it taught virtually in the past year. The recent grant from VNC will allow Strength United to invite additional middle schools to participate in the coming school year.

“We know children are victimized at younger ages and/or have been exposed to violence in their homes,” said Kim Goldberg-Roth, executive director of Strength United and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). “The Safe Dates mentoring program reaches children at a critical developmental stage, affording an opportunity to teach healthy relationships, consent, autonomy and coping strategies essential to preventing teen dating violence. The Van Nuys Charities’ continued leadership-level support of this program has provided the stability Strength United needs to ensure continuity and growth for this important program.”

A Shared Vision

Strength United has been a longtime recipient of VNC’s generous support. Founded in 1958, VNC has a history of providing grants to organizations that impact the lives of Los Angeles County residents. In 2012, the organization decided to focus its giving on typically underfunded issues, and it identified domestic violence prevention as its core focus. A few years later, Strength United became one of its primary partners.

“Strength United is aligned perfectly with VNC’s stated grantmaking focus of domestic violence prevention,” said Dibble, pointing out another compelling reason for the partnership: One of Strength United’s four locations is in Van Nuys, where VNC’s founders, J.B. and Emily Van Nuys, lived on a ranch for many years. (James Benton — J.B. — was the only son of Isaac Newton Van Nuys, a prominent figure in the development of the San Fernando Valley, for whom Van Nuys, California, was named.)

“We saw Strength United as a premier, prominent force in domestic violence prevention, with strong relationships throughout the Valley, within the L.A. County domestic violence community, and with a premier university having strong credentials in education and placement of clinical professionals,” Dibble continued, adding that Strength United’s affiliation with CSUN and its connection with clinical staff intern candidates impressed the VNC Board. “Also, the concept of a one-stop, one-focus center for the prevention, identification and treatment of domestic violence trauma fit perfectly with VNC’s mission to fund local, high-impact organizations with depth of knowledge of the issues and problems of domestic violence.”

In addition to its partnership with Strength United, VNC supports Valley Nonprofit Resources — operated by CSUN and based in its College of Social and Behavioral Sciences — which offers services to strengthen the 4,300 nonprofit organizations in the San Fernando Valley. Strength United is also part of a cohort group created by VNC for executive directors to support each other and evaluate child welfare responses to domestic violence.

“The continued generosity of J.B. & Emily Van Nuys Charities is life-changing,” said Vice President for University Relations and Advancement and President of the CSUN Foundation Robert D. Gunsalus. “Among the broad array of community services and partnerships, Strength United is exceptionally impactful. Their work to to address domestic violence prevention is critical, and with VNC’s support and partnership, they will be able to expand their reach to impact even more families in our communities.”

“Thanks to the support of VNC, Strength United has been able to educate children at a transformative age, to change their knowledge, behaviors and attitudes around healthy relationships,” added Goldberg-Roth. “Violence and its associated trauma are preventable, and this type of work is key to creating a violence-free community.”