Domestic violence statistics are increasing and Dance Marathon attendance has been slipping.
Those two trends were cause for alarm, and a call for change in the 17th annual 12-hour event, which begins at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Seniors at Columbus East planned the school’s first dance marathon in 2000 as part of a senior project. But now, East students have been joined by peers from all ages in high school from Columbus North, Columbus Christian and Hauser in planning the event as well as other students who are home-schooled.
For many teenagers, the event was a little too expensive, and it felt a little too much like a job. As a result, 380 students participated in last year’s event, down from more than 400 in 2014.
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This year, with a new, lower price — a minimum $20 donation instead of $30 — and new attractions, organizers hope to nearly double last year’s attendance to more than 750 participants, said Nicole Bodi, media and marketing committee co-chair and 18-year-old East High School early graduate.
She admits this could be a challenge.
Students with full plates
“Trying to sell something like this to teenagers can be hard,” said Bodi, an intern at Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, which helps organize the event and uses proceeds to provide services for domestic violence.Students already struggle with balancing school work, college applications, sports and other activities, said Bodi, a senior herself just last semester.
Adding one more commitment can be difficult, she said.
So getting more people in the door is about finding ways to make participation easier, Bodi said.
The minimum donation to attend was reduced. And dancing is now optional rather than a required part of the program.
“It’s supposed to be fun, not work,” Bodi said.
Along with the lowered price, new attractions have been added, Bodi said.
The dance now includes a life-sized version of the children’s game “Hungry, Hungry Hippos” and a giant Foosball table on which students replace the plastic footballers.
But fun and games are not the only attractions, said Lisa Shafran, Turning Point president.
Turning Point is hoping to raise $120,000 this year.
Part of this money will go toward three $2,000 scholarships that will be awarded at random to high school seniors in attendance. These prizes will be drawn throughout the night and can be applied to tuition at any post-secondary institution in the world, whether that be the University of Paris Sorbonne in Paris, France, or Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus, Shafran said.
About 100 teenagers from Columbus North and East High Schools have been meeting at Central Middle School to organize the annual event.
The event has been moved to this location, away from its traditional home at Columbus East High School, Bodi said. Organizers hope holding the event on neutral ground will encourage greater participation among students at Columbus North High School.
The first order of business during a planning meeting earlier this month was a rehearsal of a big, group dance.
“It’s like an organized flash mob,” said Austin Lewis, event co-chair and senior at Columbus East High School. “Is that a thing? Aren’t flash mobs suppose to come out of nowhere?”
But this dance is clearly planned.
Drawn to volunteer
The entire group congregates in the lobby area of the middle school. At the top of a set of stairs, Columbus East High School students Kira Singer and Camrin Morris demonstrated each movement. Below, everyone else followed along.Morris is hardly new to the Dance Marathon. She joined her first committee as a freshman three years ago and has been helping to organize the event ever since.For her, the fun is secondary. Turning Point handles a lot of difficult cases of abuse and sexual assault every year, she said. Some of those cases involve people her age, and that is something that doesn’t sit well with her.
“Teen dating violence is very common in our community,” Morris said. “We can help prevent it.”
In recent years, Turning Point has tried to do just that, said Stephen Dishinger, a prevention specialist with the agency.
Along with its original domestic violence shelter, the group now offers educational seminars and classes designed to help people identify and react to signs of abuse.
Heading off violence
Rather than responding after problems emerge, the agency wants to prevent violence before it start, Dishinger said. Still, incidents of domestic violence continue to happen, he said.The number of new protective orders issued by the Bartholomew County Clerk’s office increased nearly 30 percent last year, from 521 in 2014 to 674 in 2015.The Columbus Police Department made 72 domestic violence-related arrests last year, with charges filed against 21 individuals. These numbers are also up about 30 percent from 2012, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman.
With trends such as these, the group’s core mission of direct service is never far from his mind, Dishinger said.
“We have a shelter that is in use all the time,” he said. “It’s all crisis, all the time. When people come in, they need protective orders, housing, jobs, help with prescriptions, and they need that help immediately.”
All of that takes money and events such as the Dance Marathon are vital to maintaining those services, Dishinger said.
Indiana Sexual Violence Statistics
•Indiana has 2nd highest rate of forced sexual intercourse among high school girls in the nation
•The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than one in six Indiana high school females have been a victim of sexual assault by the time they are 18 years old (14.5%). Wyoming is the only state with a higher rate (16.5%).
•In Indiana, 9.8% of high school students were physically forced to have sex when they did not want to in the past year, and the rate is higher for females (14.5%) than for males (5.2%)
•Nationally, estimates show that 13.6% of teen girls ages 14-18 were sexually harassed, 10.7% were sexually assaulted, and 8.1% were victims of an attempted or completed rape in the past year.
•In Indiana, 11.3% of high school students report being hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend.
Source: 2016 Kids Count report
When: 8 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday
Where: Central Middle School, 725 Seventh Street
Price: Minimum donation $20. Those who donate more than $75 earn VIP status, which includes additional food options, memorabilia and a sweatshirt.
Special Prizes: Three $2,000 scholarships will be awarded to participating seniors attending the event. Winners will be randomly drawn at midnight, 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Only current seniors are eligible and participants must be present during the raffle to win.
674: Number of new protective orders issued in 2015, compared to 521 in 2014
72: Domestic violence arrests in 2015, 21 of them resulting in charges from the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s office.
325: Number of individuals who spent a total of 5,114 nights in Turning Point shelters in 2015.
724: Number of people receiving non-residential services through Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.