Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan Facilitate Discussion with Youth Leaders from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Initiative

    • December 2, 2009

Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan are meeting with teen leaders, their parents and program directors from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships initiative to discuss teen dating violence. Youth representing four Start Strong communities: Bridgeport, CT., Boston, MA Providence, RI, and Bronx, NY, are participating, along with their parents, Start Strong site leaders, Esta Soler, President of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, the Start Strong National Program Office, and Kristin Schubert, director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Today's event is part of the Department of Justice's year-long commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is raising public awareness of the many forms of violence against women. Today's meeting is being held in conjunction with nationwide events as part of the sixth annual It's Time to Talk Day, organized annually by Liz Claiborne Inc. to draw national attention to the importance of talking about domestic violence, teen dating violence and intimate partner abuse.

Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships (Start Strong) is the largest initiative ever funded to target 11-to-14-year-olds to promote healthy relationships as the way to prevent teen dating violence and abuse. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Blue Shield of California Foundation* are investing $18 million in 11 communities across the country to identify and evaluate the most promising strategies to stop dating violence and abuse before it starts.

In November 2008, 11 community organizations were chosen after a rigorous seven month selection process, which drew more than 500 applications nationwide, to receive $1 million in funding through the Start Strong initiative. As part of Start Strong, communities are working with the Family Violence Prevention Fund to find new breakthrough ways to empower 11-to- 14- year-olds to stop the spread of dating violence. Start Strong takes a public health approach to prevention by working at an individual and community-wide level to promote positive health behaviors.

The 11 Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships sites are:

  • Boston Public Health Commission – Start Strong Boston
  • Bronx-Lebanon Hospital – Start Strong Bronx:
  • Catholic Charities – Start Strong Wichita:
  • Clarian Health – Start Strong Indianapolis:
  • Emory University – Start Strong Atlanta:
  • Family Violence Law Center – Start Strong Oakland:
  • Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence – Start Strong Idaho:
  • Peace Over Violence – Start Strong Los Angeles:
  • RYASAP – Start Strong Bridgeport:
  • SafePlace – Start Strong Austin:
  • Sojourner House – Start Strong Providence:

* Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is funding 10 sites around the country and Blue Shield of California Foundation is funding one site in California.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, we work with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years we’ve brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those we serve. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, we expect to make a difference in your lifetime.

Blue Shield of California Foundation, one of the largest health care grantmaking organizations in California, has committed a total of over $25.5 million in the past six years to ending domestic violence in the state. For more information, visit The Foundation was formed by Blue Shield of California, a not-for-profit corporation with approximately 3.4 million members, 4,700 employees and more than 20 offices throughout California. For more information about the company, visit

The Family Violence Prevention Fund works to end violence against women and children around the world, because every person has the right to live free of violence. The FVPF has continued to break new ground by reaching new audiences including men and youth, promoting leadership within communities to ensure that violence prevention efforts become self-sustaining, and transforming the way health care providers, police, judges, employers and others respond to violence. Its public education campaigns, conducted in partnership with The Advertising Council, have shaped public awareness and changed social norms for 15 years. For more information, visit