Jennifer was a senior in high school when her ex-boyfriend killed her with a firearm.
Although, as an engaged parent, I was aware of many of the “talks” that I should have with Jen in order to guide her to adulthood, I simply did not know about the prevalence of teen dating violence or the reality of its dangers.
And so I had “talks” with Jen about smoking, about strangers, about hitchhiking, about drinking and driving, about sex, about so many things. But not about the warning signs of an abusive relationship, not about the ubiquity of firearms, not about the use of firearms by abusers to exert control.
As Jen was my only child when I lost her, I also lost my identity as a parent — as “Dad” — and so I started a small nonprofit charity in her name to alert other parents to the painful realities of teen dating violence. Jennifer Ann’s Group is focused on the prevention of dating violence among young people.
Jennifer Ann’s Group now publishes serious video games about teen dating violence because we believe that it is a great approach to reaching young people and addressing serious issues. We produce, publish and research serious games about serious issues in order to engage and educate young people, their parents and educators.
Over time, these games in her name have been translated into several languages, have been the focus of published research, and have been played by young people around the world.
We do this in Jen’s name so that she will continue to have a voice and a presence — to do some of the good in the world that I know she would have done, had she been given a chance.
I do this so other parents will know this is another important “talk” to have with their child.
I do this because I do not know what else to do.
I do this so I can still be Jen’s Dad.