Congratulations to the team from Assabet Valley as Finalists
 WOBURN – After more than 200 high school students produced and submitted 35 public service announcements speaking out against teen dating violence, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone today announced the six finalists in the District Attorney’s Teen Dating Violence PSA Contest.
 
            The District Attorney’s PSA project, created in conjunction with Middlesex Partnerships For Youth, Inc. and REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, was initiated in an effort to spark a positive dialogue and encourage teens to speak out against teen dating violence. Launched in April, it asked high school students from throughout Middlesex County to create and produce their own PSAs on the issue of teen dating violence.
 
          A total of 35 entries were submitted by more than 200 students from throughout the county. The six PSA finalists were then selected from those entries by a panel of school personnel and domestic violence experts.
 
          The six PSA finalists were produced by students from Somerville High School, Bedford High School, Everett High School, Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, and Shawsheen Valley Technical High School.

          The six finalists can be viewed by visiting boston.com or by visiting the Middlesex District Attorney’s website at www.middlesexda.com.
 
          The winning PSA will now be selected by a vote of more than 800 high school students who will view the videos in health classes throughout Middlesex County. Students will view and discuss the PSAs in classes at schools in communities including: Dracut, Framingham, Lowell, Malden, Newton, Reading, and Woburn.
 
          District Attorney Leone will address students and attend the voting being held by more than 300 members of the senior class at Malden High School on Thursday, June 3, at 1 p.m.
 
          The winning PSA will be professionally edited by Conover Tuttle Pace (ctpboston.com), a Boston Advertising and Public Relations Firm, and then be submitted to Boston television stations for airing.
 
          “The best communicators about teen dating violence are the students themselves,” District Attorney Leone said. “I want to thank each student who produced these PSAs for their leadership in speaking out against teen dating violence. These PSAs touched on many important issues – from the impact of physical and verbal abuse to the difficult situations that teens are placed in when confronted with abusive relationships. Violence is never part of a healthy relationship – and we hope that these PSAs will spark an important dialogue and encourage young people to have healthy relationships free from abuse.”

          “I was so honored to view the powerful messages created by these students,” REACH Executive Director Laura Van Zandt said. “The PSAs talked about the full picture of dating violence – the verbal torment as well as the physical damage – and how this dynamic can isolate and endanger friends. They also showed how bystanders can make a difference. The conversations started while the studenta were making these videos, and the ones that will continue as more students view and discuss them, are the most powerful tool there is in the work to end dating abuse.”
 
            Teen dating violence has long been a focus of the District Attorney’s Office and domestic violence service organizations like REACH. However, the recent incident in which pop star Chris Brown was charged with allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Rihanna, has placed a new spotlight on this troubling dynamic.
 
            Among the statistics that demonstrate the challenges we face regarding the issue of teen dating violence:
 
• 1 in 3 teenagers report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner
• Youth, specifically between the ages of 16 to 24, experience the highest per capita rate of intimate partner violence in the nation
• Following news reports on the alleged incident between Chris Brown and Rihanna, a survey of Boston teens revealed that 46% of respondents believed that Rihanna was in some way responsible. In addition, 44% said that fighting was a normal part of a relationship
 
          In the contest, high school students from Middlesex County communities were asked to produce and submit their own 30 or 60-second PSA about the issue of teen dating violence. Topics could include, but were not limited to:
 
• Speaking out against abuse
• Understanding that physical and verbal abuse is never an acceptable part of a healthy relationship
• Recognizing abusive behavior or an abusive relationship
• Stepping in and standing up to abusive behavior by a friend
 
          After receiving the 35 entries, a panel of domestic violence experts, school personnel and members of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office selected the six finalists.  State Representative Cory Atkins (Concord), a leading advocate on the issue of domestic violence, served on the panel along with members of the domestic violence advocacy community including staff from from Jane Doe, Inc., REACH Beyond Domestic Violence and Voices Against Violence.  Also serving on the panel were school administrators and counselors from various high schools and Mark Bappe, Creative Director at Conover Tuttle Pace.
 
The six finalists selected by the panel are:
 
• “A Cry For Help”
o Students: Mitchell Freitas, Jason Cory, Aa Kash Sharma, Anthony Bohan, Jerry Alsonse, Stefani Vivian
o Somerville High School
 
• “Just Because He Doesn’t Hit You”
o Students: Kelly Sullivan, Christian Sullivan
o Bedford High School
 
• “Speak Against Teen Dating Violence”
o Students: Aidan Horrigan, Amanda Atkinson, Ashley Scesny
o Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, Marlborough

• “She Changed”
o Students: Tom Kennedy, Haley Lynch, Jeff Wairi, Josh Sperat, Alex Chisholm
o Somerville High School
 
• “Take A Stand”
o Students: Taylor Dube, Richie Carbone, Amy DeCelles, Sara Elwell, Samantha Gumtow, Kim Haley, Kasaey Hill, Nichole Layon, Evan Lord, Dan McCauley, Michael O’Connell, Briana Wiley
o Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, Billerica
 
• “End The Cycle Of Abuse”
o Students: Joharrah Samson, Aida Rivera, Brian Ramunno, Marianne Oliveira, Gardy Elivert, DeAndra Davis, Jessica Davis, Bryan Christie, Andrew Beckford-Rosario, Maranjellie Abreu, Mathews Alves DeSouza, Richard Monexant
o Everett High School
 
The PSA finalists can be viewed at boston.com or at www.middlesexda.com.
 
            To learn more about teen dating violence, please visit:
•        www.reachma.org/pavenet
•        http://www.loveisnotabuse.com
•        http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/topics/dateviolence.asp
 
           Since he began serving as Middlesex District Attorney in January 2007, Leone has launched a number of initiatives to better serve victims and enhance the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases. Leone created the office’s Domestic Violence Unit, a team of specific prosecutors and victim witness advocates charged with investigating and prosecuting DV cases. That unit also offers comprehensive trainings for local police departments as well as organizes community-based Domestic Violence Roundtables throughout the county. In addition, Leone created a first-of-its-kind program to help victims of domestic violence during the restraining order process. Specifically, because prosecutors are not allowed to represent victims during that process, Leone’s office has partnered with private law firms to help assure that victims are afforded pro bono legal services during these restraining order hearings that are critical in helping victims extricate themselves from abusive relationships. Leone’s office has also partnered with organizations to form community-based DV rapid response programs.