FVPF to Lead New Initiative to Build Healthy Teen Relationships

Feb 25, 2008

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has announced a new, four-year initiative designed to stop violence among the next generation. Working with the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF), which it named as its National Program Office for the project, the Foundation will spend $14.625 million over the next four years to prevent teen dating and sexual violence and promote activities that build healthy and safe relationships among youth ages 10 to 14. The initiative will identify effective ways to encourage older teens, parents and adult mentors to implement innovative strategies, change social norms, and engage communities in stopping this violence.

More than half the funds, $8 million, will go to four-year grants to eight geographically and ethnically diverse communities to create comprehensive models of prevention that can lead to decreases in relationship violence. The FVPF will oversee the community grantees, which will be selected in November.

“The destructive cycle of violence between close partners affects so many of our young people and their families. In order to break this cycle, we must focus on the development of healthy and positive relationships that are mutually safe and supportive. And we must start with our youth,” said James Marks, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director, RWJF Health Group.

"The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is putting resources exactly where they are needed most," said FVPF President Esta Soler. "Its extraordinary investment has the potential to stop relationship violence before it begins, help us identify better ways to change social norms, and teach the next generation that violence is always wrong. We are thrilled to be the National Program Office for this unprecedented, groundbreaking and urgently needed new initiative."

“I was so pleased to learn that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has selected the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund to be the National Program Office for its new initiative,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said. “Teen dating violence is a terribly serious problem here and across the country, and the Foundation could not have chosen a better organization to lead this important new project. The Family Violence Prevention Fund’s public education and prevention work is simply unmatched.”

Nearly one in ten high school students (8.9 percent) have been physically harmed by a dating partner in just the past 12 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Many more face verbal or psychological aggression in dating relationships. Teens who are victimized by a dating partner are more likely to smoke, binge drink, use drugs and have eating disorders.

Relationship violence often begins at a young age. A national survey conducted in January by Teenage Research Unlimited for Liz Claiborne Inc. and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline finds that one in five children age 11 to 14 say their friends are victims of dating violence, and nearly half of tweens who are in dating relationships say they know friends who are verbally abused. One in three teens who had sex by age 14 say they have been physically abused (hit, kicked or choked) by an angry partner.

The CDC reports 1,200 deaths and two million injuries to women from intimate partner violence each year, and nearly 600,000 injuries to men. Nearly one in four women reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend sometime in her life. Women who experience violence are at higher risk for health problems and for risky health behaviors.

To learn more about the new project, visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

The Family Violence Prevention Fund works to end violence against women and children around the world, because every person has the right to live free of violence. The FVPF’s National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence provides critical information to thousands of health care providers, institutions, domestic violence service providers, government agencies, researchers and policy makers each year. Its public education campaigns, conducted in partnership with The Advertising Council, have shaped public awareness and changed social norms for 15 years. For more information, visit

For help: The National Domestic Violence Hotline operates, the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474. It offers real-time one-on-one telephone and on-line chat support from trained advocates.

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