When John O'Grady was growing up, his dad told his five sons, "You're not a man if you hit a woman." It's a nugget of advice that Karen S. Days, president of the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, repeats as she teaches students to recognize and avoid abusive relationships.

When John O'Grady was growing up, his dad told his five sons, "You're not a man if you hit a woman." It's a nugget of advice that Karen S. Days, president of the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, repeats as she teaches students to recognize and avoid abusive relationships.

Last month, O'Grady and his fellow Franklin County commissioners gave the coalition a more tangible contribution: a $34,466 check from federal stimulus funds. The goal is to build the It's Abuse education campaign before taking it nationwide in 2010. "This is amazing to get these dollars," Days said. "It will allow us to get more resources and keep it alive so we can take it to the Big Ten schools as a turnkey program."


The It's Abuse campaign began at Ohio State University and since has expanded to seven other schools. The program runs a website, www.itsabuse.com, and uses student peers to educate men and women. The groups hope to raise awareness among students, ages 16 to 24, about the warning signs of physical, verbal and emotional abuse, and eventually change attitudes and behaviors.


"The stories (from college students) are staggering," said Katie Wolfe Lloyd, chairwoman of the coalition's business and public education task forces. "This is the first time many students are away from their parents. They're vulnerable. It's a chance to educate a student what a healthy relationship is." Wolfe Lloyd also is publisher of Columbus Alive, Capital Style and Dispatch Fronteras, sister publications of The Dispatch.


Commissioner Marilyn Brown said she began speaking about the issue to her two daughters, now 30 and 32, when they started to date. She recalls advising her girls: "When you're in a situation that doesn't feel right, it's not right. It's okay to walk away."


Commissioner Paula Brooks, a mother of two, said parents can protect sons and daughters from corrosive relationships by instilling in them a strong sense of independence and self-esteem. "We want to educate our children so they will recognize an abusive relationship when they run into it, maybe for the first time at college," Brooks said. "It's a family cycle that has to be broken."