WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Young people are becoming the new face of domestic violence, says Tamron Hall, the host of MSNBC’s News Nation and co-host of NBC’s Today Show.  That’s why the national correspondent and news anchor is participating in a new initiative that targets youth in an effort to educate them about domestic abuse and decrease the incidents of violence.  Hall has had several years of experience working with youth as the emcee of the Urban League of Palm Beach County’s Youth Empowerment Luncheon.  The event, which promotes the National Urban League Incentive to Excel & Succeed (NULITES) program, was held most recently at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in downtown West Palm Beach.

As a part of the Today  Show’s “Shine a Light” series, a campaign to support worthy causes, Hall has committed to help end domestic abuse.  She said her goal is to create a PSA to air in schools, camps, churches and other organizations with youth because domestic violence is increasingly affecting this population.  “Research and data show that young people, middle and high school, are increasingly in relationships that involve domestic violence,” Hall said.  “Technology (plays a part).  They talk a lot about cyber bullying for example.  There’s a lot of aggressive behavior that we’re seeing in social media.”

In recent months, several high profile athletes have  also been involved in domestic violence incidents such as NFL player Ray Rice who in February  allegedly punched his then fiancée and current

wife Janay (Palmer) Rice on an elevator in Atlantic City and knocked her unconscious.  And Olympic gold medalist soccer player Hope Solo was arrested in June for reportedly hitting her sister and 17-year-old nephew.

Patrick Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, said that young people are confused with perceptions connected with domestic violence.  “It has a negative impact because we see all too often our ‘so-called’ role models being victims and involved in domestic violence and it does not send a clear message to our youth, our young families and our young couples,” he said.

Hall has been open about her family’s personal tragedy involving domestic violence when in 2004 her sister was killed in an apparent homicide.  “We don’t know all the circumstances.  We only know what authorities have told us, but prior to my sister’s passing away, we were well aware that she’d been in a relationship where domestic violence was frequent,” she said.  “At the time, like a lot of other families, I think my family did not know quite how to approach it.”

Hall said she thinks that the most important thing to do is to offer support and let both victims and survivors know that they are not alone.  “My family was devastated by domestic violence.  You often ask people why don’t they leave.  You put pressure on the victim,” she said.  “Because you love them, you want to see them safe but you don’t always approach it in a way of understanding, a way that is as sensitive as it should be.”

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) website, from 2003 – 2013, there were 136 domestic violence related murders in Broward County, 249 in Miami-Dade County and 117 in Palm Beach County.  The total number of domestic violence related offenses from 2003 – 2013 in Broward County was 81,451, Miami-Dade 132,273 and Palm Beach County 66,278.

Speaking openly about this issue and educating our youth is a step in the right direction to ending domestic violence, Franklin said.  “I think the first thing we should is discuss what domestic violence is and how it affects couples, families and the community and educate our kids about it,” he said. “We have to start with education and how domestic violence just tears down our families.”

The Urban League of Greater Miami president and CEO T. Willard Fair said that he thinks it’s important to have discussions about domestic violence as well.  “Anything that affects our family is (worth) discussing even if one person is a victim of it.”

President of Women In Distress of Broward County, Mary Riedel said there are organizations across Florida that provide free and confidential help for survivors of domestic violence.  Women In Distress offers a 24-hour crisis line, (954) 761-1133, a website: www.womenindistress.org, therapy, counseling, emergency shelter for those in need as well as community education and prevention programs. “It’s a pervasive problem.  One in four women and one in seven men will experience (domestic) violence at some time in their life,” Riedel said.  “Children are seeing the violence and they’re being abused. So it has a dramatic affect on children.”

Franklin said that this type of reactionary violence in homes and within families has to stop.  He said the Urban League of Palm Beach County has a referral system in the 2-1-1 Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast Help/Crisis Line and other agencies that specifically deal with this issue.

“I hope that people don’t see domestic violence as a certain race or a certain economic group,” Hall said.  “This is not a private issue.  This is not, ‘what happens in the home stays in the home.’  It’s a public issue.”

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 or visit: www.thehotline.org.