Information from the Office of United States Attorney William C. Killian, Eastern District of Tennessee
Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking affect all age groups, including adolescents.
February is “Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.” This month should raise awareness and focus efforts to break the cycle of violence to young victims, their families, and communities.
Information about the availability of services for victims is available at the Office on Violence Against Women (www.vawnet.org and www.ovw.usdoj.gov). That agency administers several youth-focused grant programs established by the Violence Against Women Act.
Many teens, including college students, find themselves in abusive, thus unhealthy relationships. The cycle of violence must be broken. Teen dating violence is often hidden and not reported, due to teenagers’ reluctance to talk about their emotional situation.
Adolescents either don’t know how, or are afraid to intervene if a friend is being abused. Sixty percent of college students who had been in an abusive relationship said that no one helped them.
Children who are the victims of sexual abuse are at risk for further abuse as they grow older. Witnessing domestic violence has strong links to future dating violence. Young people experience unacceptably high rates of dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Young women who suffer rape or abuse early in life are at a higher risk for being in abusive relationships as adults.
As professionals, parents, educators, political and business leaders, and other members of our local communities, we must teach about and model healthy relationships. Intervention and prevention efforts are key elements to stopping the cycle of abuse.
Every year, millions of children and adolescents across the United States are victimized and exposed to violence in their homes and communities, and often suffer severe long-term emotional and physical consequences. When these problems remain unaddressed, children are at higher risk for school failure, substance abuse, repeat victimization and, perhaps, most disturbingly, perpetrating violent behavior later in their own lives.
We must all do our part to break the silence and work toward eliminating teen dating violence. As parents and adults, we need to prepare our children and youth for many things in life. Young people learn best by observing their parents and other role models in their lives. Adults who respect themselves, their partners, and other people in the community are teaching children important lessons critical to their ability to lead lives free from dating and domestic violence in the future.
We must continue to advocate for the young people in our lives by providing safe spaces to have conversations about the instances of dating violence and provide models of healthy, violence-free relationships that include support, love, and respect.
The Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, administers several youth focused grant programs established by the Violence Against Women Act. See http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/datingviolence.html for more information.
The Department of Justice or the foregoing offices should be contacted for further information on these programs. These federal funds provide unique opportunities for communities to increase collaboration among victim service providers, child, youth, women’s and men’s groups, and classes to help teens understand healthy relationships, identify signs of abuse, and assist them to find services for those suffering from an abusive relationship.
Reducing violence against our young people may be our best chance to end future assaults and homicides.