Dani Volkman was a happy teen, she would go on camping trips with her adoring family, participated in sports, and was a good student, everything that you would want and expect from your child. Then at age 13 she started dating and that is when everything began to change. Her mother, Kathy started noticing the metamorphosis her daughter was undergoing through the manipulation and pressure exerted on her by the abusive relationship she found herself in. “Her friends changed, and the lying started…” recounts her mother. Still, Dani wasn’t considered an “at risk” teen. So as Dani’s parents fought to regain control of their daughter, as she was influenced by her then-boyfriend, they ran into multiple roadblocks when trying to find assistance. They did everything they could as parents, they were told that since Dani was not “in the system” there was no programming for her, so they allowed her to be put into the system, but still, it seemed as though it was too late. Eventually, Dani died by an accidental overdose due to an asthma flare while huffing.
Since Dani’s untimely death, the Volkman family has been warriors for change, doing everything in their power to prevent an incident like this from occurring again. They wanted a way to educate youth, parents and our community on teen dating violence and ways to help youth develop healthy coping strategies. With the help of The Women’s Community, together they created the Dani’s Journey Education Fund. The Volkman family created an annual bowling fundraiser event in Dani’s name, and have raised funds to support teens and bring educational opportunities to youth, parents, professionals and our community for the past 5 years. They have been advocates for changing the culture in which we live in. “They don’t teach this in schools. They teach all these other things but not how to recognize healthy relationships.” Dani’s father, Marc pointed out. This is something The Women’s Community has been striving to change through prevention education seminars in the high schools. “Talk to your children,” stresses Kathy, tears forming in her eyes, “…know who their friends are, take an active role in your children’s lives.”
In order to assist in building the bridge of communication between parents and their teens, The Women’s Community and Dani’s Journey will offer an event, “Time to Talk,” hosted by and held at the Marathon Public Library at 6pm, where we discuss in detail different ways to start talking to your teens and getting effectively involved in their lives. We will hear personal stories, as well as from a mental health therapist and victim advocates. Together we can help our teens build healthy relationships.
Kira is a new resident to the city of Wausau. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and interning with the Birmingham Police Department she eventually found her role in advocacy. Her position here at The Women’s Community is Children’s Advocate in the Domestic Violence Program.