VALPARAISO | Dozens of snapshots of Amanda Bach were displayed on a table — Amanda in her green M&M costume for Halloween, Amanda with a dolphin, Amanda on Santa’s lap — all with family and friends, smiling as a child.
Bach's family, friends along with residents, youth organizers, teachers and mental health officials gathered Wednesday at Aberdeen to kick off the Amanda Forum, a program of The Caring Place, to prevent the type of violence that led to Bach's death.
Malcolm Astley, a dating violence prevention advocate who lost his daughter to violence in 2011, delivered the keynote speech. He said dialogue and caring are essential to all stages of relationships.
“The challenge to us to prevent repeated harm and murder is the education of our communities, reading the warning signs and addressing them," Astley said. "Success is knowing the tools and using them.”
Those tools will be discussed in a series of workshops Thursday and Friday. Lessons are given in recognizing signs and preventing teen dating violence.
He is the founder of The Lauren Dunne Astley Memorial Fund whose mission is to promote dynamic educational programs in the areas of the development of healthy teen relationships, the arts and community service.
Mary Beth Schultz, executive director of The Caring Place, said, “We want the people here tonight to stay connected as trainers and what we’re trying to do here is start a movement.”
That movement, Porter-Starke clinical psychologist David Kenis said, begins with behavior.
“We’re not aware of how prevalent teen violence toward one another is," he said. He also is a board member at The Caring Place.
"The Amanda Forum can provide a platform for pro-social behavior, to teach kids that it’s OK to be open about their feelings, to share and not be ashamed, in a way that is constructive rather than destructive,” Kenis said.
One in five young women experiences dating violence or abuse, physical, emotional, psychological, and financial; and nationally three women a day are slain by an intimate partner, supposedly within a loving relationship.
The Amanda Forum began as a program four months ago and has grown from just 10 teens involved in the training to 150 who will gather Friday to continue the dialogue.
Denise Koebcke, youth dating violence prevention workshop coordinator for The Caring Place, says the Amanda Forum will be a positive response to a horrific event, the murder of Amanda Bach and the prevalence of teen violence.
“There is so much hope in this community," Koebcke said. "We began the Amanda Forum because of a tragedy and this has given us a way to feel hope. This community cares.”