More than ten years ago, a trip to a safe house for abused children in Twin Falls County made a lasting impression on me, one that moved and motivated me to make family violence prevention one of my top priorities as a U.S. Senator. Much of that commitment is reflected in my work in the U.S. Senate to improve and strengthen legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act along with regular visits to shelters throughout Idaho and partnerships with various domestic abuse prevention groups to increase awareness about this disturbing problem.
My dedication to violence prevention also includes raising awareness of teen dating violence. In the 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, I was able to get provisions to make victims of teen dating violence eligible for assistance included. Every year since 2004, Congress has passed resolutions designating the first week in February as “National Teen Violence Awareness and Prevention Week.” This campaign began with a small group of teenagers who took a stand against teen dating violence. It quickly gained momentum to become the national movement that it is today. Since this initial effort, Congress, and over fifty local, state and national organizations recognize this effort each year.
This year, in recognition of the growing awareness of this issue and its ramifications, Congress will designate the full month of February as “Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month” with S.Res. 373. This resolution encourages teens to develop healthier relationships and calls upon parents, schools and community members to observe the month with programs and activities that provide education on teen dating violence and prevention within their communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts indicate that teen dating violence is a serious public health issue facing today’s youth.
• One in ten high school students self-reported on a CDC survey that they were purposely hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.
• A physically or sexually abused teen is up to six times more likely to become pregnant and more than two times as likely to report a sexually-transmitted disease.
• Such abuse affects victims’ academic achievement, as one in five abused girls did not attend school on more than one occasion in a 30-day period because she felt unsafe at school.
Fortunately, public awareness of teen dating violence and its affects upon victims has dramatically increased. Now, more than ever, teens have a greater understanding of this issue. In Washington, D.C., teens seeking supportive services over the past year increased three-fold. The message is spreading, but, unfortunately, many parents are still unaware of the extent of these issues, including the growing, harmful impact of abuse via electronic media such as suggestive text messages and internet threats. There is much more to be done, and much more we can all do to bring awareness of this issue to an even higher level nationwide.
My website has a section dedicated to combating teen dating violence, complete with information on how to get involved, how to spot signs of abusive relationships, and even public service announcements regarding teen dating violence made by Idaho teens from Eagle High School. You can find this information and much more here: http://crapo.senate.gov/issues/teen_dating_violence.cfm.
Our teens today will be parents tomorrow. It is our responsibility to help them understand what constitutes healthy relationships. It is said that family violence is a cycle; children learn what they live. Let’s work together to stop the cycle of interpersonal violence today, before destructive attitudes and behavior engulf yet another generation of Americans.
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