Jason Witten partnering with UT College of Nursing for domestic violence program

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten warms up before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One in seven people in the United States will witness domestic violence in their homes, according to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association. Dallas Cowboys tight end and former UT player Jason Witten is partnering with the University of Tennessee College of Nursing to help witnesses.

“His father was abusive to his mother before she took Jason and his two older brothers out of their home in Washington, D.C. and moved to Tennessee,” says SCORE Foundation Executive Director Ryan Altizer. “Because of his experience, the fight against domestic violence has always been something close to his heart.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in 15 children will be exposed to intimate partner violence each year and 90 percent of those children are eyewitnesses.

The Winning SCORE program will provide support to UT students who have been exposed to childhood domestic violence. The program’s goal is to help the students graduate college and have a successful future.

“The UT College of Nursing’s vision is, ‘Leading Care. Creating Partnerships. Improving Health.’ We are committed to providing an educational experience that graduates the best prepared registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse scientists,” said UT College of Nursing Dean Victoria Niederhauser. “To achieve our vision, we create programs that allow us to engage students and faculty in leading care that is helping to improve the health of our local community in Knoxville, as well as the health of the nation.”

Witten’s wife, Michelle, is a graduate of the College of Nursing.

Related: East Tennessee organizations help domestic violence victims become survivors

“This partnership made perfect sense for that reason and because it focuses on helping people overcome the effects of being raised in violent homes,” says Altizer.

According to Niederhauser, the college developed the idea for the program while working with the university’s foundation.

“[The] nursing practice focuses on promoting and improving health by providing care to individuals, families and communities,” says Niederhauser. “Research shows us that many things contribute to a person’s health, for example, their living conditions, access to health care, their exposure to damaging experiences earlier in life, their behaviors, and their genes.”

The SCORE Foundation was contacted by the university and the Verizon Foundation stepped in to help fund the program.

During pre-game ceremonies of UT’s game against Georgia, the Verizon Foundation presented the program a $40,000 grant.

The university hopes the program will bring more awareness to childhood domestic violence and be an educational program for resident assistants, residence hall directors, athletic advisors and coaches.

“It is a very unique program in that it really takes a look at the long-term effects that DV causes and is proactive in helping these students overcome those challenges to have healthy relationships and break that cycle of violence,” says Altizer.

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