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Loyden’s powerful speech about domestic violence resonates with Absegami student-athletes

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – When you’re a high school student-athlete and you are summoned to an after-school assembly featuring a guest speaker, you figure, OK, at least it gets me out of some tedious practice time. Then you look into the eyes of a woman who tells you about her sister being murdered, and it no longer becomes a gathering you half listen to while checking the latest Twitter updates on your cell phone. On Friday afternoon at Absegami High School, athletes from many different teams at the school were riveted to the message that Jillian Loyden told them about domestic violence, how serious a subject is, and how when you become a victim of it, it changes your life forever. Loyden, center, conducts and interview with Absegami students Kristen McCormick, left, and Ashley Burns for Gami TV, the school's television station, after Loyden's guest speaking appearance at the school on Friday. Loyden, center, conducts and interview with Absegami students Kristen McCormick, left, and Ashley Burns for Gami TV, the school’s television station, after Loyden’s guest speaking appearance at the school on Friday. Loyden, 29, is well known in South Jersey because of her prolific soccer career. She was an all-state performer at Vineland High School, three-time Big East goalkeeper of the year and an all-American at Villanova, and was on the roster when Team USA won Olympic gold in London in 2012. She also played several years of professional soccer. She said she believes her athletic prowess helps when trying to get her message across to high school athletes. “I think they can relate to me being an athlete, first and foremost, but then they understand the importance of the message. And for me, it’s really important to drive home what they are seeing at home is important and that they have great role models at home and outside the lines. It’s important for them to know how important they are and how much they can make change in this world,” Loyden said. “This has been an awesome experience here at Absegami High School. And at different colleges and high schools I’ve been visiting people have been coming up to me afterward and saying this is important in their life. They encourage me and we are able to have dialog and they tell me how important it is, which is really encouraging for me to keep doing what I’m doing.” What Loyden is doing with her foundation, along with Radu, is traveling around and speaking to young athletes about the dangers of domestic violence, the damage it causes and how to see the early warning signs. The foundation aims to put a stop to domestic violence before it starts by educating youth, sort of a pre-emptive strike on the root causes of domestic violence. Loyden’s foundation is promoting their “Every Voice Counts” campaign to encourage people to speak out against domestic violence. “I think it’s good to learn early instead of later so that athletes know not to mess around and that it’s not a joke. She lost her sister, who was her best friend, and that really touches home. It’s a serious matter,” Dolan said. The Absegami girls soccer team poses for a photo with Loyden. Senior Kelcie Dolan said Loyden's speech made a big impact on Braves athletes. The Absegami girls soccer team poses for a photo with Loyden. Senior Kelcie Dolan said Loyden’s speech made a big impact on Braves athletes. “I think it’s very eye-opening for them to realize what a healthy relationship is between a woman and a man, or any relationships that they are in, and just overall treating people better and respecting people more is important,” Loyden said. “They are captivated by the athletic side and they have a lot of respect for me and what I’ve accomplished in my career, so they really take to heart what I am saying and I think they really want to impact people’s lives.” Loyden said it’s important for teenagers to understand what domestic violence is, and what can be done about it, because many times teenagers are beginning to experience adult relationships for the first time in their lives. “It’s important to promote healthy relationships, especially because they are still trying to find out who they are. If they can identify with how valuable they are, and how loved they are, I think they are less apt to accept domestic violence and not need the affirmation from outside sources and will feel confident in who they are,” Loyden said. During her speech, she said that kids who are exposed to domestic violence at home are much more likely to become offenders as adults, and that is where her foundation comes in. Loyden wants to help kids who have been exposed to violence to seek help so that they don’t go on to commit horrible crimes when they are older. “I’ve had kids come to me who have experienced domestic violence and they didn’t know it was domestic violence,” Loyden siad. “Being able to share this message with them is extremely important for them to be able to identify that they are more apt to then (initiate) conflict (if they have been exposed to it).” “I think the group we had in there will take her message with them. Being athletes, I think they can relate to her and I think she spoke in a way that was very transparent,” Tracey said. “Just the way she was able to feel what she was saying, you could tell she is down to earth and I think they can pick up on that.” To learn more, visit jillianloydenfoundation.org. Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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