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Fundraising dance joins fight against domestic violence

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More than 700 students from Columbus-area high schools are expected to gather Saturday at Central Middle School for the 14th annual Dance Marathon, benefiting Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.

The event’s student-chosen theme, “Rise Above It,” is meant to be empowering for survivors and bystanders. It also could be interpreted as encouragement for potential abusers to rise above and break the cycle, said Stephanie Cunningham, mentor for the event’s awareness and education committee.

Columbus East High School senior Katie Hollenkamp, 17, said her fundraising role with the event has made her realize what a hushed, yet prevalent, presence domestic violence has in the Columbus community.

“It’s something that is taboo in the community,” Hollenkamp said. “But when you find 1 in 3 teens will be affected, you start to understand it’s something that can’t be ignored. It hurts our community.”

According to the Columbus Police Department’s 2012 end-of-year report, there were 1,072 domestic calls last year and 97 arrests for domestic violence. While CPD received fewer domestic calls than the 1,194 in 2011, the arrests increased from 73 the year prior. Turning

Point is more focused on prevention than it’s ever been before, said Pat Smith, president of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.

“The students are the primary drivers to changing the culture,” Smith said. “They help teach us how we can best reach them.”

Music by local bands, including Mayan Miscalculation and Project Dubru, and disc jockeys, such as Jeff Christian and DJ Carlos, are scheduled to alternately perform throughout the night.

The event’s theme song, “Face Down” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, will play at the top of every hour, signaling students to gather in the gym for a presentation about domestic violence.

Ian Kohen, adult leader for the marathon, has been involved with the event since 2002 and said it’s always impressive to see the students’ reactions to the presentations.

“Even now, it sends tingles down my spine,” Kohen said. “It’s amazing to see so many kids listening and being respectful.”

It’s about letting teens know domestic violence does not discriminate and can affect anyone of any age, gender and socio-economic background, Kohen said.

The marathon is one of Turning Point’s biggest annual fundraisers. Of the more than $100,00 raised at last year’s event, $70,000 was netted for Turning Point, Smith said.

There is still time to register. Cost is $35 per student, and ID is required. Students can register until the day of the dance.

Fundraising is encouraged for all who attend. Those who raise $75 or more will be eligible for special prizes, including concert tickets, gift cards and iPods, made possible by an anonymous donor.

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