Teen RAPP in the News


Truman High School students fight to save Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP)

Published: June 13, 2013 7:43 PM

BROOKLYN – Three teens were honored today for the raps they submitted to the ‘Rap for Rapp’ contest to raise abuse awareness.

The three winners honored today in Brooklyn. Run by the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program, “Rap for Rapp” challenged students to write and submit raps about domestic violence.

The three winners were awarded Beats by Dre headphones.


Truman High School students fight to save Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP)

THE BRONX – Some Bronx high schoolers are putting up a fight to save a program aimed at preventing abuse.

Truman High School students say they credit the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) for teaching them about how to have healthy relationships, and they want to make sure it doesn’t get cut off from city funding.

RAPP pairs students with peer educators and trained counselors who help them recognize the signs of verbal, emotional and physical abuse.

The program costs the city $3 million every year, and has been saved from the chopping block for the past three years. Students say they want Mayor Michael Bloomberg to know it’s worth every penny to save it again.

RAPP against abuse

Posted on Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer


For the past three years, the teenagers in the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) have had to fight proposed budget cuts.

This year, they are taking up arms yet again to restore $3 million in funding that is slated to be eliminated in Mayor Bloomberg’s 2014 Executive Budget.

Dozens of teenagers decked in RAPP t-shirts and bearing signs of support gathered on the steps of City Hall this past Wed., May 22nd. Joining them were representatives from RAPP’s three non-profit providers, CAMBA, The Center Against Domestic Violence (CADV) and STEPS To End Family Violence (STEPS).

Chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, dating violence has got to go,” echoed throughout the plaza.

Lucia Rivieccio, Director of the RAPP/STEPS to End Family Violence, led the students in a call-and-response sequence.

“What do we want?” she yelled.

“RAPP!” shouted the students.

“When do we what it?”


Also pledging their support were several Councilmembers, including Ydanis Rodríguez, Annabel Palma, and Andy King.

“Teen RAPP has proven to be a successful and cost-effective violence program. Despite the challenging fiscal climate in which the City finds itself, reducing funding for the prevention of dating violence and school bullying is the wrong choice,” said Councilmember Palma.


Councilmember King encouraged the students, reminding them that in the civil rights movement, the work of young people figured largely.

“It’s your turn to be the next generation of leaders,” he told them.

These student leaders seemed to take their responsibilities seriously.

Several, including Sheila Munim, a student at IS 52, openly discussed their experiences.

“I’ve been through a lot, and that’s why RAPP means so much to me,” she said. Munim, who is South Asian, said she has been bullied at her school because of her ethnicity.

Munin’s RAPP counselor, Archana Arora, accompanied her to the rally.

“I realized that not only was she being teased and bullied, but she internalized that she’s different. Not only was she feeling isolated and lonely, it affected her emotional health,” she explained.

“I was blaming myself for what I was going through,” added Munim. “The program helped me overcome my fears, and know myself better. I try to keep positive thoughts.”

Munim also shared a few thoughts about Arora: “She’s a great counselor to me.”

Bronx students (from left to right) Nyree Saomon, Liliana Michaca,and Shamarra Samuel benefitted from RAPP; “It makes me feel better about myself,” said Saoman.

RAPP currently serves 45,000 students in 65 middle and high schools throughout New York City; the organization estimates that its annual cost per student is $66.

Its advocates argue that it is one of the nation’s most successful violence-prevention programs, and that it is critical in helping young adolescents how to have healthy relationships, recognize bullying and abuse and help themselves and others handle dangerous relationships.

As highlighted by Munim, the program does not limit its services to those who are in abusive relationships.

Many on the steps of City Hall that day came to discuss their experience with RAPP as it helped them deal with a different kind of abuse: bullying.

The statistics for both phenomena are alarming.

While the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault reports that 40 percent of male and female high school students said they had been victims of dating violence at least once, about 30 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have been involved in bullying, either as a bully or as a victim of teenage bullying, according to the American Medical Association.

“We see the education around ending violence—all kinds of violence – and bullying fits right in. We don’t see them as separate things,” said director Rivieccio.

Nyree Saomon, Shamarra Samuel and Liliana Michaca, all students from the Bronx, found solace in from RAPP after being bullied in school.

“I joined so I could talk about my problems with someone,” said Saomon. “It makes me feel better about myself.”

The girls spoke about the different ways they have been bullied.

“People talk about the way you look,” said Michaca.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez lent his support.

“Like you’re not good enough. People call me fat and make fun of my size,” added Samuel.

Michaca said others make fun of her ethnicity; she is of Mexican descent.

The girls said they benefit from group discussions, and learn about other people’s problems too.

RAPP counselors teach teens about healthy relationships, and how to deal with bad ones.

“One thing we do is help students get out of abusive relationships, and we do safety planning to help them safely get out of abusive relationships,” explained Connie Márquez, RAPP’s acting program director.

For more information on RAPP, visit; for help, call 800.621.HOPE.


Statistics provided by Teen RAPP

1 in 7 NYC high school students is physically or sexually assaulted by a dating partner.

1 in 10 teenagers in New York City schools reports experiencing physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship within the past year.

1 in 3 teens report experiencing some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse.

The New York City Domestic Violence Hotline receives an average of 1,400 calls from teenagers every month.

67% of teens in abusive relationships never tell anyone about the abuse.

Nearly 80% of NYC teen girls who experience relationship abuse continue dating their abuser.

2 out of 3 teens are bullied.

Teen relationship abuse victims are more likely to struggle with depression, anorexia and bulimia, drug and alcohol abuse, gun violence, coerced unprotected sex and teen pregnancies.

Victims of abuse are less likely to complete high school or graduate high school in four years.



City budget cuts threaten Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013 1:23 pm

By Cyril Josh Barker Amsterdam News Staff

Public school students, parents and elected officials are fighting to save funding for a crucial program in schools aimed to reduce bullying and violence. Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (Teen RAPP) in the city’s FY2014 budget is under the knife.

Teen RAPP is one of the nation’s most successful violence-prevention programs, serving over 45,000 students in 65 public schools across the five boroughs. At $66 per student annually, Teen RAPP is the city’s most cost-efficient social intervention program.

For 14 years, Teen RAPP has provided vital services to the city’s middle and high school students, teaching kids how to have healthy relationships, recognize bullying and abuse and help themselves and others handle dangerous relationships. At a rally held last week, Teen RAPP students demonstrated the effectiveness and necessity of the program.

“Teen RAPP has enabled me to have a positive impact on my peers,” said Danisha Eaddy, a Teen RAPP alumna and college student. “As one of them recently said to me, ‘You are my role model, and I admire all the time and effort you have put into the program.’ Teen RAPP is the reason why I am where I am today, and the reason that I will continue to work to help end teen violence in New York City.”

Council Member Annabel Palma, chair of the New York City Council’s General Welfare Committee, said the program has proven to be a successful and cost-effective violence prevention program.

“Despite the challenging fiscal climate in which the city finds itself, reducing funding for the prevention of dating violence and school bullying is the wrong choice,” she said. “I intend to work with my colleagues to restore its funding.”

According to Judith Kahan, CEO of the Center Against Domestic Violence, one in seven high school students in the city are physically or sexually assaulted by someone they are dating.

She said, “Violence has lifelong negative impacts on our students,” said Kahan. “Kids depend on access to Teen RAPP’s in-school services to keep them safe and help them realize their goals.”

In an effort to save the program, a contest was held last month called “Rap 4 RAPP.” In the contest, aspiring student MCs were encouraged to submit a 45-second rap that educated key decision-makers about Teen RAPP’s benefits. The contest invited students from all five boroughs to write and record raps sharing their perspectives on relationships, what can go wrong and strategies for making things better.



Posted on May 24, 2013 3:02 pm

Tyriek Overton performed a rap song about healthy relationships for supporters of Teen RAPP who gathered on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to call for funding for the program to be restored in the city’s budget. Teen RAPP, short for Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program, works with 45,000 students in 65 public schools across the five boroughs. Seventeen members of the City Council, which must approve a budget by the end of June, joined the rally, according to organizers. (Photo via Geto & de Milly, Inc.)


BX students win award for rapping about bullying

Posted on July 10, 2012


(07/10/12) THE BRONX – Two Bronx students have received awards for rapping to spread an anti-violence message.

The students, Tyreek Overton and Jovan Martinez, won the “Rap for RAPP” contest. Their rhymes aimed to raise awareness about the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program, or RAPP, which is set to be renewed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget proposal. RAPP operates in 64 middle and high schools around the city.

The students say they’re excited to spread the word about bullying to other teens.

Overton recently graduated from Truman High School and is heading to college in the fall. Martinez, a graduate from John F. Kennedy High School, is currently studying social work at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The Dance is Over: Mayor and City Council Agree on Final City Budget


Posted on July 3, 2012


On June 28, 2012, a $68.5 billion budget was approved by the New York City Council for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 (FY13), which began on July 1st. Restorations were made in vital areas like child care, after school, youth services, senior services and supportive housing.

The Human Services Council and advocates Citywide are pleased that the Mayor and City Council were able to reach an agreement on funding for critical Child Care and afterschool programs that were slated to lose over $170 million dollars and 47,000 slots. The restorations baseline some funding for Early Learn child care programs and expand OST services in many communities. Additionally, funds will be allocated for health insurance rate increases. The Campaign for Children brought this issue to the forefront this budget season and fought long and hard. We are happy that the importance of these support programs was recognized at all levels of government.

Other youth services that were preserved were Teen RAPP (Relationship Abuse Prevention Program), the largest domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying program of its kind, and Runaway and Homeless Youth Services that support one of the most vulnerable populations of youth in New York, LGBT teens. Funding for both programs was slated to be eliminated which would have been a blow to the City’s youth.

Restorations were also seen in the HASA program, which supports 4,500 formerly homeless New Yorkers living with AIDS and HIV. The program not only keeps them healthy and independent, but it actually saves the City millions. $5.1 million in restorations came through City Council discretionary funding and was championed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma.

Even though senior services were held harmless to cuts this year, there was a restoration of $4 million to case management. This was something that advocates had fought hard for as caseloads for case managers was creeping to dangerous levels. High caseloads do not leave sufficient time or resources to adequately care for aging New Yorkers and can lead to waiting lists for initial assessments, meaning a social worker hasn’t been able to make the first home visit.

Minor cuts were seen in some subsectors, but overall Human Services fared much better than previous budgets. Even though minimal cuts were made for the fiscal year, this only begins to chip away at the compounded cuts from previous years. We hope the Administration and City Council will continue to see the value of human services to our communities and the role they play in growing a strong economy.

Contributed by Shana Mosher of the Human Service Council

Teens learn awareness of relationship abuse


The 17-year-old high school senior stepped on a small stage in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall and launched into rhyme just as yesterday’s drizzle gave way to sunshine.

“It was all good in the beginning,” Tyriek Overton said as he began his short rap. Then, he said, a few months down the line, a man hits his girlfriend and expects her to understand. “But you shouldn’t even try to. You know what you’re in the middle of? An abusive cycle.”

Overton, who attends Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx, received Beats by Dr. Dre headphones as one of the two winners of the Rap for RAPP contest. The Relationship Abuse Prevention Program, which operates in 67 schools in New York City, sponsored the competition to increase teens’ awareness of the program and its annual efforts to get the city to renew its $3 million budget.

The contest’s other winner, Jovan Martinez, didn’t make it to the event because he was stuck in traffic.

Overton, who has been a peer counselor at Truman for more than two years, recently started writing hip-hop rhymes. “In today’s youth, everyone listens to hip-hop, so what better way to get a point across?” he said. He cites Jay-Z as one of his stylistic influences.

The peer counselors receive training from social workers, who provide outreach to students in abusive relationships and to the peers who want to help them. Social workers teach teens about the different kinds of relationship abuse: how to spot it, avoid it and get out of it.

RAPP member Lucia Riviecchio said the program’s effectiveness in teaching teens about abuse saves hospital costs and legal fees. RAPP officials also say the program boosts academic performance among some participants.

Three years ago, the program was cut from the city budget. Since then, RAPP has had to appeal annually to the City Council to continue funding the program.

As for Overton, he says he plans to continue writing rhymes when he goes to college, perhaps at Syracuse.


NY1 – “Rap For RAPP” Student Winners Perform At Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza

Two city students performed raps for the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program at Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza Wednesday.

Queens resident Tyriek Overton and Bronx resident Jovan Martinez were named “Rap for RAPP” contest winners.

The two students used hip-hop to explain what makes relationships work.

They were presented awards at Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza and were given ‘Beats by Dre’ headphones.

The raps also stressed the need to reinstate three-million dollars of city funding for the program, which faces closure on July 1.

Teen RAPP helps students deal with all types of relationship violence.

“I rap for RAPP to help end silence, silence about domestic violence,” Overton said. “With kindness, we spread information and knowledge and show you what an abuser or victim sees through their eyelids. The time is now.”


Bronx alumna raps for top prize in RAPP contest

(05/24/12) THE BRONX – A Kennedy High School graduate’s powerful words have helped her take home the top prize in a rapping contest.

Jovan Martinez, an alumna of the Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program known as RAPP, won for her lyrics on family, dating and the importance of reinstating funding for the program.
Martinez is currently a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University.



Bullet Points: Community Board 15 – May 29, 2012


The Teen RAPP coordinator at Sheepshead Bay High School urged Boardmembers to support the program. RAPP — Relationship Abuse Prevention Program — has been running in 62 host schools throughout New York City. The program provides preventative measures for teens facing bullying and dating or domestic violence, using  prevention classes, intervention counseling, staff development and training and community outreach. Mayor Bloomberg’s budget proposes to cut all funding to the project, effectively ending it in July, and advocates are fighting back.


Teen RAPP: Fighting for Funding to Prevent Relationship Abuse

Written by Fred Scaglione

Thursday, 26 April 2012 10:34

Jackie Muniz was 16 when she first participated in Teen RAPP – a $3 million citywide school-based Relationship Abuse Prevention Program that is once again fighting for its survival in the New York City budget process.  “I was in an abusive relationship.  My boyfriend was a gang member and I was very afraid of him,” she says. “I was also afraid of what could happen if I told someone.”

Jackie had good reason for her fears.  “My boyfriend monitored my moves,” she explains.  “He did not allow me to hang out with my friends.  He bought me a cell phone, and got mad if I called anyone but him.  He grabbed me, pushed me up against the wall, and slapped me in the face in front of his friends and family.”

While the physical violence was terrible and was a very real danger to her safety, the emotional abuse was equally damaging.  “He insulted me and made me feel like I was nothing.  He convinced me that everything he did to me was my fault.”

Luckily, a friend told Jackie about RAPP and, despite her fears, she went to see the RAPP counselor based at her school.

RAPP Graduate and new RAPP Coordinator Jackie Muniz with Judith Kahan, CEO, Center Against Domestic Violence.

“From the moment I entered the RAPP office I felt safer,” she says. “I thought the sessions would be about my relationship but they were more about building my self-esteem.  I never felt forced to leave the relationship.  The work we did gave me strength. When I finally decided to leave it was because I realized that I didn’t deserve to be abused – and that none of it was my fault.”

But RAPP would do more than just help Jackie deal with an abusive boyfriend.  It helped to change her life.

“Being involved in RAPP activities strengthened me and awakened interests and talents I never knew I had,” Jackie explains.  “I became a peer educator and went to classrooms and community groups to teach teens about relationship abuse.”  Before joining RAPP, Jackie’s grades had suffered as her self-esteem and her hopes for the future were smothered by abuse.  “By the time I graduated, I realized that RAPP had created a career path for me,” she says. “I knew I wanted to be a Social Worker.”

Jackie was accepted into City College, becoming the first person in her family to earn a degree – with “high honors” by the way.  From there, she moved on to Hunter College School of Social Work where she recently earned her MSW.    Today, Jackie Muniz is a RAPP Coordinator for the Center Against Family Violence program at Franklin K. Lane High School in Queens – the first RAPP graduate to be hired for that position.

Jackie credits her success – in school, in her work, and in a new loving and healthy relationship – to her experience with RAPP.  “None of this – not me getting out of that relationship – not me growing to love myself – not me entering college and graduating – not me getting my Masters in Social Work – not me having met a person who truly respects and loves me – would have been possible if it weren’t for the inspiration and guidance that I found in the RAPP program,” she says.

While Jackie Muniz may well be the archetypical RAPP success story, she is far from unique. Every year, RAPP programs touch the lives of more than 50,000 ethnically and culturally diverse students throughout New York City.

Three human service provider agencies –The Center Against Domestic Violence, CAMBA and STEPS to End Family Violence/Edwin Gould Services for Children & Families—station MSW-level RAPP Coordinators at 62 middle and high schools.  They offer a range of services including in-classroom instruction on issues of relationship violence and bullying, one-on-one crisis intervention for students dealing abusive relationships as well as a host of other problems, and a peer educator program which provides training, stipends and valuable work experience for particularly motivated students.

Despite its impressive record over an 11-year history, RAPP is once again slated for elimination in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Executive Budget for FY2012-13 which begins on July 1st.   For most of its existence, RAPP had actually been “baselined” in the Executive budget, providing a stable and reliable source of funding from year to year.  The program’s sense of security was torn away, however, in FY2011 when the Mayor first dropped RAPP from his budget proposal, forcing the City Council to step in.  Since then, the Council has voted to continue funding of the RAPP program in both FY11 ($2.5 million) and FY12 ($2 million), with the remaining funding coming from the NYC Human Resources Administration.

Loss of the program would be devastating at a time when concerns about relationship violence and bullying are higher than ever, say providers.

“Teen RAPP has a proven track record of engaging teens in preventing domestic violence and also thwarts bullying,” says Judith Kahan, CEO, Center Against Domestic Violence.“These issues are nationally recognized as leading problems amongst middle and high school students.”
“Teen RAPP saves New York City millions in potential costs related to medical treatment, hospitalization, juvenile detention, teen pregnancy shelter placement, and other social serves,” says Lucia Rivieccio, Director, STEPS to End Family Violence.

“Teen RAPP has taught students in all five boroughs how to have healthy relationships, recognize bullying and abuse, and help themselves, family and peers handle dangerous relationships,” said Kevin Coffey, Assistant Deputy Director, CAMBA.

The best advocates for RAPP continue to be those young people whom the program has served.
Some are those who entered the program as victims of abuse or bullying, then graduated with a new recognition of their own worth and future possibilities.  “Before I found RAPP I was judged, pushed, shoved, ridiculed, and alienated because I was a gay student,” says Wilfree Vasquez.  “RAPP saved me from an environment filled with hatred and ignorance.  It taught me to believe in myself.  I have gained the confidence I need to make it in the world.”  Today, Wilfree works for a local fashion designer and volunteers part-time to help the RAPP program at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan.

In other cases, RAPP saves young people from becoming abusers themselves. “Freshman year, I found myself involved with the wrong people, engaged in the wrong activities, and walking down a path to which there was no positive outcome,” says Harry Gaston. He saw that the students most others looked up to were respected for their proficiency at demeaning and violating other kids.  “Before I knew it, I was in a gang, doing nasty things to strangers, disrespecting students I thought less of, and taking advantage of girls who didn’t know any better.”

Luckily, a girl he was dating “dragged” him into the RAPP room to speak with a counselor…and with other kids.  “My classmates’ worlds were falling apart right in front of them, and all I was doing was making things worse,” he said.  “The events that occurred in that RAPP room from my sophomore year until graduation, taught me so much about myself and what I am capable of. Any dreams I buried away under the belief that my life was rigid and incapable of change surfaced; it was after joining the RAPP program that I finally felt like I could be the person I actually wanted to be in school and in the world.”

Without RAPP, Gaston is convinced he never would have graduated high school.  As a result of RAPP, he is now completing his final year of pre-med studies at Lehman College, a single father raising his four-year-old son.

By reaching young people early – during middle school and high school – RAPP has the potential to assist youth on both sides of the abusive or bullying relationship. “They are still developing their attitudes and values,” says David Zelmansky, LCSW, Supervising Social Worker at CAMBA. “There are more opportunities to make positive changes.”

RAPP’s three-session classroom curriculum covers Abusive Relationship Behaviors, Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships, and Sexual Assault/Harassment.  Students take a pre-survey prior to the first session and a post-survey at the end of the third session.  “We show that students increase their knowledge about what makes a healthy relationship, the five forms of abuse, the age of consent and safety planning,” says Zelmansky.  “They become very engaged in the workshops.”

Social workers provide one-on-one counseling for students who are in abusive relationships, have witnessed domestic violence at home, been a victim of crime, or have experienced bullying. In the 18 programs which STEPS to End Family Violence operates on nine DOE school campuses, they provided individual counseling for 2,356 youth during 2011.

RAPP’s seven-week summer Peer Leadership Training Program teaches students to become leaders so that they can go back into schools to train, educate and empower their peers about violence and bullying prevention and self-esteem.  “It is very powerful for students to hear these messages from other students,” says Zelamsky.

With graduates like Jackie Muniz, Willfree Vasquez, and Harry Gaston, the RAPP Peer Leadership program has an outstanding record of positive outcomes for graduates.  “96% of STEPS’ High School Peers graduated and most of whom went onto college,” says Lucia Rivieccio, LCSW, Director, STEPS to End Violence at Edwin Gould Services for Children. “This compares with a NYC average of 65.1%.”

“RAPP Coordinators are able to connect with teens and help them deal with issues that often go far beyond relationship abuse and bullying,” says Rona Solomon, Deputy Director of the Center Against Domestic Violence.  “We see these kids turning their lives around on a regular basis.”
“Before RAPP I never had an adult who actually cared for me unconditionally. Please save RAPP so that other teens will have the opportunity to feel whole again,” Willfree Vasquez told the City Council in testimony during last year’s last year’s budget hearings.  He still feels the same way.



NYC’s Denim Day tomorrow will support victims of rape, sexual assault

Metro New York City Desk

Published: April 24, 2012 3:57 p.m.

New Yorkers are encouraged to wear jeans tomorrow in support of sexual assault victims.

Politicians and advocates rallied today on the steps of City Hall for Denim Day, which kicks off tomorrow.

The day highlights sexual assault and dating violence, encouraging people to wear jeans while making the point that no clothing is ever an invitation to sexual crimes.

Organizers said the event stems from a 1990s Italian Supreme Court case, where a judge said the victim’s tight jeans meant that she probably helped her attacker remove them.

“We are more than what we wear,” Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James said. “We should not be defined by what we wear, and we should not be objectified.”

A December report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that one in five women in the United States have been raped.

“The numbers are astounding,” Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras said.

Ferreras, who wore jeans to the event and has sponsored Council hearings about street harassment, said that clothing can sometimes invite an unwelcome reaction on the street.

“These jeans unfortunately sometimes become a signal of how much we’re going to get harassed on that day,” she said.

Dozens of men and women packed the steps of City Hall from groups like the Joyful Heart Foundation, headed by “Law & Order: SVU” actress Mariska Hargitay, which helps victims of sexual assault.

About 80 percent of victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25, according to the CDC report, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

Rape has increased 4 percent this year, according to NYPD statistics, from 365 so at this time last year, to 380 as of April 8, according to NYPD data.

Misdemeanor sexual crimes, like groping, also increased 15 percent, from 757 to 873.

Recently, a so-called “dapper groper” was grabbing women uptown, and in March, former NYPD officer Michael Pena was convicted of sexually assaulting a teacher by gunpoint as she was on her way to work.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer
 will host a self-defense workshop Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Marta Valle High School, on the Lower East Side.

“This is not right,” he said at City Hall. “This is not acceptable.”


Program to stop teen violence faces cuts


by Heather Senison


When Jackeline Muniz was 16 years old, she sought counseling at Martin Luther King High School, where she was a student, to help her get out of an abusive relationship.

The fighting caused her to miss class, get bad grades, and nearly cost her high school graduation.

For help, Muniz turned to the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) in her school, which helps teenagers combat relationship abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and bullying.

“The way that the RAPP program helped me was it helped me to work through that relationship,” she said. “It helped me work through things on my own, to get to know myself better, to build up my self-esteem so I could get out of that relationship.”

However, for several years in a row, including in the 2012/13 fiscal year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed cutting the program’s $3 million in funding out of his executive budget.

Now the organizations that put the program together, including the Center Against Domestic Violence, STEPS to End family Violence/Edwin Gould Services for Children & Families, and CAMBA, a non-profit agency that helps New Yorkers improve their quality of life, are urging the City Council to once again restore its funding

“To have a place where kids could go and just talk, it was something that was just beautiful,” Muniz, who now lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn, said of her experience with RAPP. “To have someone who was always there, you know you can always count on, it was such a good thing.”

Muniz said she started out receiving individual counseling through RAPP and eventually moved on to help her peers.

Part of RAPP, which currently serves 50,000 students in 62 middle and high schools throughout the city, is a summer program in which students are trained to be peer counselors.

As a peer counselor, Muniz took trips with her classmates around the city, such as to go bowling or see a Broadway show. The students also hosted holiday parties.

In addition, Muniz spoke in classrooms and community centers about her experience getting out of an abusive relationship.

However, she said the most important part of going to RAPP was that it enabled her to graduate high school on time, succeed in college, and become a professional teen counselor.

She graduated from City College with honors in 2009, with a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Women’s Studies, and then pursued her Master’s degree in social work, which she finished last June.

Now, Muniz is a RAPP coordinator at Franklin K. Lane High School on the border of Queens and Brooklyn in Cypress Hills.

Muniz teaches students about problem-solving and communicating in relationships. The program also holds sexual assault and rape workshops at the school.

“We teach about healthy relationships,” she said.

“I’m also a role model for them,” Muniz said, because she shares a similar background with her students and is now a successful adult.

One thing that she sees as a RAPP counselor is the cycle of domestic violence. Kids experience it at home, and then perpetuate the behavior because it’s what they’ve been taught, Muniz said.

“A lot of these kids think that these things are okay,” she said, “that these things are normal.”

If the program is cut, the government would have to spend more money helping domestic violence victims and RAPP coordinators could lose their jobs, she said.

“I think that a lot of kids would probably end up in abusive relationships in the future,” Muniz said.


In-School Teen Counseling Program To Be Axed In July


A program that helps 11,800 teens each year might be terminated by July of this year if funding is allowed to be slashed, and a local councilman says he’ll be fighting for its restoration.

Teen RAPP — Relationship Abuse Prevention Program — has been running in 62 host schools throughout New York City. The program provides preventative measures for teens facing bullying and dating or domestic violence, using prevention classes, intervention counseling, staff development and training and community outreach.

But, in cutting all of its $3 million in funding, Mayor Bloomberg’s new budget gives the axe to a program that advocates believe is proven to be effective.

“We see a direct correlation between RAPP and reducing abuse in schools,” said Caitlyn Brazill, a representative for the CAMBA, a nonprofit that helped create and oversee the program. “Cutting RAPP could lead to an increase of abuse in schools.”

It’s not the first time the program has faced budget cuts. Just last year the program was slashed, but managed to regain its funding after a fierce struggle pitting education and political advocates against the mayor’s office.

But the latest loss of funding could mean a decrease in peer mentors, according to CAMBA, which would mute the program’s success at a time in which bullying appears to otherwise be on the rise.

City Councilman Lew Fidler, who serves as chair of the Youth Services committee and has been a vocal advocate for anti-bullying measures, is blasting the proposed cuts, pointing out that early prevention is key in abuse and domestic violence cases.

“I’ve fought repeatedly to protect our City’s children and most vulnerable citizens,” said Fidler. “This is part of that fight. The school-based teen RAPP program, through counseling and support, teaches needed skills and promotes healthy relationships.”


News 12 – NYC anti-violence program fights for funding


BROOKLYN – An anti-bullying program based in Brooklyn is fighting for funding after organizers say it was eliminated from Mayor Bloomberg’s 2013 budget.

Organizers say the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) is the largest anti-violence campaign in the nation, reaching over 50,000 students in 65 New York City schools.

RAPP had all of its funding restored for 2012.


NY1 – Public School Students, Advocates Rally to Save Anti-Abuse Program




Students, pols beg City Hall to save Relationship Abuse Prevention Program




Dozens of students and local politicians joined forces on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to urge Mayor Bloomberg to restore funding for a teen abuse-prevention program.

The Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) stands to lose all of its $3 million funding in the city’s 2011 budget.

“I can’t believe it,” said Carolina Acon, 19, who joined the program five years ago. “I was so lucky to have this in my life and I know others need it, too.”

The abuse-prevention program serves about 50,000 students annually in five middle schools and 57 city high schools.

Students learn to recognize and change destructive patterns of behavior before they are transferred into adult relationships.

“Last year, 12,000 teens received dating-violence counseling and support,” said City Councilwoman Annabel Palma (D-Soundview). “It is critical that the city give its full support to programs like this that teach skills to build and maintain healthy relationships.”

Started 10 years ago, teen RAPP is touted as the largest early intervention program to prevent adolescent violence in the nation.

Advocates said the numbers are cause for concern.

In New York City in 2007, 11% of male and female high school students reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

Organizers said teen relationship abuse victims are more likely to be involved in gun violence and affected by anorexia and bulimia, drug and alcohol abuse and coerced unprotected sex.

“In a city where teen dating violence is at nearly twice the national average, RAPP is a lifeline to teens,” said Lucia Rivieccio, who heads the program STEPS to End Family Violence. “We cannot afford to lose this program. The lives of our teens must be a priority.”

Wilfree Vasquez, 22, joined RAPP as a junior at Manhattan’s Martin Luther King Jr. High School and now volunteers there.

“The program helped me come out of the closet,” he said. “I don’t take abuse from anybody because of the RAPP program. I felt like I had someone there who actually listened to me and helped mold me for the future and prepare me for the real world.”

For help with an abusive relationship, call NYC’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 621-HOPE (4673).