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Skating events spotlight dating violence fight

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Kane Benjamin laughed about the possibility of his athletics self-respect slipping right out from under his skates at Columbus’ Hamilton Center Ice Arena on Friday.

The veteran Columbus Icemen hockey player and his teammates will compete in a good-natured jumps-and-spins contest against Lincoln Figure Skating Club members.

“I like to think I can get air,” Kane said. “And I can get up OK. But the landing usually doesn’t end well.”

The lighthearted competition is part of a hockey-game-and-more evening for a serious cause: highlighting teen dating violence. So it will be at the fourth annual Not On Our Ice from 9 to 11 p.m. The event, part of Kane’s senior project at Columbus North High School, will include the Icemen facing off against local figure skaters, a puck-shooting competition and other activities.

Kane acknowledged just getting teens or others to speak openly about the sensitive topic of dating violence sometimes can be as slippery as the ice itself.

“It can be very uncomfortable to talk about,” Kane said. “But in recent years, since this event has gone on, I think people are a little less afraid to talk about it.”

Putting a fun spin on Friday’s event is just one way to make the issue more approachable for people of all ages, according to Kane and Kelly Benjamin, his mother and the chairwoman of the local Domestic Violence Action Team, which is supporting the gathering. Kelly, an attorney who has worked domestic violence cases in Bartholomew County for four years, cited national figures from the past decade that most parents are unaware of dating violence.

“I think parents often talk about things such as, ‘Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, and watch out for teen pregnancy,’ but not very many may think about sitting down and talking about this (topic),” Kelly said.

“Some parents may think, ‘They’re young, and they’ll just figure it out.’”

Kelly mentioned that she and Columbus Police Department detective Lt. Mike Ward have done safe-dating presentations in local schools. She said few students raise their hand when asked if parents have discussed relationship violence with them.

Kane has seen high school friends and acquaintances struggle with relationships that included elements of violence.

He said he believes healthy segments of education on the issue can prevent unhealthy dating relationships from developing among peers.

That’s part of the idea behind Columbus’ Teens For Change, a dating violence awareness group that Jessica Smith serves in the role of adult mentor. Smith mentioned that she’s always happy to see people involved in the issue and called the evening “a great event for teens and others.”

Trendha Hunter of Teens For Change will make a brief presentation about dating violence between activities at the rink.

Meanwhile, Kane will need to consider more than practicing spins and jumps, to be judged by Mayor Kristen Brown, Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix and Noel Findley. The hockey game against the figure skaters will require him and his teammates to play with their sticks upside down.

“We can still score,” Kane said.

That includes in building awareness.

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