News Release: School of Medicine

Aug. 13,  2009

Emory's Jane Fonda Center Funded to Stop Teen Dating Violence

Part of Largest National Public Health Initiative Launched at National Meeting in San Francisco

Members of the Jane Fonda Center at Emory University and two teens, Elizabeth Cardenas and Artesse Conley, who were selected to represent Atlanta, recently took part in the national kick-off of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's $18 million effort to stop teen dating violence and abuse before it starts. The foundation's Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships (Start Strong) program launched its largest initiative ever funded to target 11-to-14-year-olds.

The Atlanta teens, along with teens from 10 other funded sites like Emory's, also participated in the first Start Strong Teen Summit. The goal is to empower the teenagers to help shape the national initiative from a teen's perspective.

In November 2008, the Jane Fonda Center was chosen as one of the 11 community organizations nationwide to receive $1 million in funding through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's national Start Strong initiative. As part of this four-year initiative, Start Strong Atlanta will rally the entire community, including teenagers, parents, caregivers, educators, coaches and community leaders to build environments that support healthy relationships and ensure violence and abuse are never tolerated.

The Atlanta Public Schools and Grady Memorial Hospital (GMH) Teen Services Clinic are partnering with the Jane Fonda Center for this mission.

"This kick-off is the start to one of the most important initiatives aimed at reducing the nation's unacceptable level of intimate partner violence through early prevention during the teenage years," says Melissa Kottke, MD, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Jane Fonda Center. "It was inspiring to see so many teens, community partners, practitioners and experts in the field convene at the kick-off to work towards combating this growing epidemic." Kottke is the principal investigator of the national initiative at Emory.

After attending the program launch in San Francisco, Cardenas says she is excited to be a part of this initiative because of what it means for teens across the country. She says that teens need to use this opportunity to make a change and contribution to a solution to teen dating violence.

Teen dating violence and abuse is a significant public health issue in this country. According to the 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one out of 10 high school students nationwide has been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend. Alarmingly, a new study released at the Start Strong launch revealed that dating violence is beginning as early as 6th grade.

The Jane Fonda Center along with its partners, Atlanta Public Schools and GMH Teen Services Program, have together developed a comprehensive community plan for this initiative to address the community's needs and prevent violence among youth. This plan will focus on four core strategies involving education, policy change, community outreach and social marketing campaigns to empower local teens to develop healthier relationships.

"We often find that teens are the best experts in what is going on in their lives," says Marie Mitchell, Start Strong Atlanta project director at the Jane Fonda Center. "Listening to their voices on this issue is so important. If we can ensure that relationships during the formative years are filled with respect, communication, and affection and are free from violence, bullying, and coercion, we may create the foundation for lifelong healthy relationships."  

Other Atlanta collaborators include: Metro Atlanta Violence Prevention Program, Department of Juvenile Justice, Fulton Family Care Network, Rock of Escape, Journey Girls, Young Adults Talk, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Girl Scouts, Georgia Campaign for Pregnancy Prevention, and the list continues to grow.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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