Home Our Diocese Teen dating violence awareness proclamation brings St. Thomas More students to Wilmington

Teen dating violence awareness proclamation brings St. Thomas More students to Wilmington

Gov. John Carney (right) talks to (from left) Logan Hughes and Jessica Churchman, students at St. Thomas More Academy, and their principal, Rachael Casey. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

WILMINGTON – Domestic violence is a principal platform for Miss Delaware 2018, Joanna Wicks. She was excited to head to Wilmington on Feb. 12 to witness Gov. John Carney sign a proclamation designating February as teen dating violence prevention and awareness month.

Wicks was in Wilmington that morning, but not at the governor’s office. Instead, she was a few blocks away, serving jury duty, but the St. Thomas More Academy art teacher was represented at the ceremony by school principal Rachael Casey and two students, senior Logan Hughes and junior Jessica Churchman.

Gov. John Carney signed this document on Feb. 12 to mark teen dating violence prevention and awareness month. Two students from St. Thomas More Academy were in attendance. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

Various state officials joined Carney to talk about the issue of dating violence, including Sue Ryan, the executive director of the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and chief judge Michael K. Newell. Hughes and Churchman were invited to stand next to Carney as he read and signed the proclamation, and the governor gave the girls the two pens he used.

Ryan said dating violence can be physical or emotional, and it can occur in person or online. Its effects are hard to measure.

“The trauma that can be caused by this violence can be short-term or long-term,” Ryan said.

Her coalition launched a new website the day before the ceremony, safeandrespectful.org, which provides resources and information focused on adolescent relationship abuse. Young people, she said at the governor’s office, are smart and talented, and the website is designed specifically for them.

Hughes and Churchman are the president and vice president, respectively, of St. Thomas More’s chapter of She’s the First, an organization dedicated to female empowerment and education. Wicks approached them about attending.

“Domestic violence is a major issue in our country, and I think it’s very important to have that discussion, especially with the governor of Delaware,” Hughes said.

Casey said the issue has been a focus this year at St. Thomas More not because the school has a problem but because it’s an issue that young people face. When students were campaigning for student government last year, moderators at the school asked them to consider a platform that would be important to them, and domestic violence was one of those.

Miss Delaware Joanna Wicks. Photo/Don Blake
Miss Delaware Joanna Wicks. Photo/Don Blake

“So, we’ve really kind of taken that and run with it,” she said.

Wicks has been an integral part of that effort, Casey continued. It is part of her platform as Miss Delaware, and it was an aspect of her undergraduate studies.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to connect what she knows, her experience and her knowledge and what she sees going on around the state, and what’s happening in our school,” Casey said.

“This is an issue that everybody should be paying attention to.”

Churchman said the information sessions, such as those sponsored by She’s the First, include informing young people about the signs of domestic violence, how to prevent it, and what to do if they see the signs in people that they know.

“We’re just trying to start the conversation, to get people thinking about it,” she said.