Statistics on teen dating violence are alarming, both at the high school level as well as on college campuses. Stories abound about ‘campus rape culture’ and without increased attention and discussion, more teens and young women will suffer in silence.

A Wilton High School club was started several years ago to help raise awareness about teen dating violence. The club, Teen PeaceWorks, has been instrumental in arranging a Wilton performance of The Yellow Dress, a dramatic one-woman play based on the stories of young women who were victims of dating violence. The club had hoped to have the play performed at the high school, but according to Kaitlin McNamara, Teen PeaceWorks co-president, the school declined to have The Yellow Dress staged at WHS. The Wilton Library stepped in and will present the play on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m..  

We asked McNamara to write something about why having The Yellow Dress shown and for Wilton teens to see it is so important.

Teen PeaceWorks is a club at WHS dedicated to spreading the awareness of dating and domestic violence. Over the last three years that I have been involved, Teen PeaceWorks has raised money for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center (DVCC) through numerous bake sales, and has decorated the high school each October and February with awareness campaigns from the Clothesline Project to Purple Fingerprints to signify school unity against violence. We have also participated in the hanging of Purple Ribbons and placing of Purple Pinwheels in Wilton Town Center, which represented the number of domestic violence incidents in our town each year. Last year we volunteered our time at the fundraiser “An Evening of Hope,” hosted by the Weston and Wilton Task Forces for the DVCC. As a group we are truly committed to spreading awareness and supporting the DVCC so that they may continue their work in helping survivors.

This past May, some members of Teen PeaceWorks, including myself, were able to to attend the DVCC Voices Of Courage Spring Luncheon due to a generous donation of a table by Marge Nickel. (Members pictured above, L-R:  Daniella Chavez, Alison Farago, Kaitlin McNamara, Garavi Angreji, Kaitlin Zappaterrini, Lizzie MacDonald, Haley MacDonald, and Johanna Greip.) We had the opportunity to listen to Mark Herzlich, an NFL player talk about his life and why he got involved in the cause to stop dating and domestic violence. He was an amazing public speaker and I was so glad that we got to hear him. It is so important that men like him are a part of the cause in order to help connect to the younger male population because it’s not only a women’s issue, it’s a human issue and we need everyone to unite against it.

Our group with Mark Herzlich.

Our group was so inspired by seeing Mr. Herzlich in person that it only furthered our belief that there is nothing quite as powerful as a live speaker. All the posters in the world don’t have the same impact of hearing someone in person.

Back when we were in the 8th grade, my co-president, Kaitlin Zappaterrini, and I had the opportunity to see The Yellow Dress at Wilton Library. We were so moved by that performance we immediately joined the club when we got to the high school. The performance was very powerful and everyone there was affected by it, but sadly the audience was lacking in the very audience it was targeted at–high school students. We wanted to reach more students as the performance illustrates what an abusive relationship looks like so that students can know the signs. We tried to work with the high school administration to have the performance at the high school. However, the administration was concerned with the sensitive nature of the performance. Although we appreciate the concerns of the administration we know the following to be true:

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • “Nearly 20.9-percent of female high school students and 13.4-percent of male high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.”
  • “Forty-three percent (43-percent) of dating college women reported experiencing abusive behaviors from their partner.”
  • One-in-five (1-in-5) women are sexually assaulted during their college tenures.
  • “Only 33-percent of teenage dating abuse victims ever told anyone about it.”
  • Fifty percent (50-percent) of youth reporting dating violence and rape also reported attempting suicide. This is compared to 12.5-percent of non-abused girls and 5.4-percent of non-abused boys.*

It’s important to bring this topic of conversation to the table because it is not only immensely prevalent but because people are afraid to talk about it. We need performances like the yellow dress to instigate conversation which will hopefully change in the community. You may think an issue like this doesn’t affect a town like Wilton, but in the last seven years we have had many reported cases of domestic violence:  in 2009 we had 111; in 2010–116; in 2011–121; in 2012–105; in 2013–96; in 2014–88; and in 2015–43 (during 2015 there was a change in calculation from including both violent and non-violent incidents to only including violent incidents).

To really put those numbers in perspective, according to an FBI statistic only 1-in-4 cases get reported, which only further proves how important it is for this to become a topic that people are comfortable with discussing.

Because of all this we are committed to bringing The Yellow Dress back to Wilton to educate our fellow students to prevent future tragedies. Luckily we were able to partner up with the Wilton Library to put on the performance.

I encourage you all to come to the Wilton Library Brubeck Room on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. to watch this free performance of The Yellow Dress.

There will be a drawing at the event. Tickets can be purchased at the event or at the Village Market this Saturday, Sept. 17 from 3-7 p.m.

*Gonzales, Jacquie. “Talk to Your Child About Teen Dating Violence.” Child Adol. Behav. Letter The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter 23.S11 (2007): n. pag. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015. Web. 29 July 2016.