By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
Last week, pop singer Rihanna told ABC's "20/20" news magazine show that she made a mistake to go back to her boyfriend Chris Brown after he beat her up during a fight last February. What happened to her was unacceptable and has put a very public face on a national problem-that of teen dating violence. We must let our young people know that violence is never appropriate in any relationship, and that there are people and resources to help those who are caught in this cycle. Many of the viewer comments left at the online sites where you can view the interview with Rihanna were disturbing. Far too many actually blame Rihanna for the incident, claim that she and Brown are equally at fault, or suggest that all of this is a publicity stunt for her new album release. Until we educate our society that domestic and dating violence is not to be tolerated, we still have a lot to do.
These comments reflect an all-too-common view among many teenagers: that such violence is acceptable; that the aggressor was pushed to do it; and that the victim is to blame and deserves abuse. This unfortunate attitude among teenagers is unacceptable. It signifies the severity of the problem and the great strides that we need to make to change this misguided perception. Every year since 2006, I have sponsored a Senate Resolution that designates the first full week in February as "Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week." This is one of the most worthwhile issues that I am involved with as a U.S. Senator and I look forward to introducing this resolution for February 2010.
Most people are aware of highly publicized celebrity cases of dating violence, but they are unaware that the majority of these cases occur closer to home---even here in Idaho. A 2008 Liz Claiborne, Inc. study shows that one in five 13-14 year olds in relationships say they know friends and peers who have been struck in anger (kicked, hit, slapped, or punched) by a boyfriend or girlfriend. And 69% of all teens who had sex by age 14 said they have gone through one or more types of abuse in a relationship.
Because such violence impacts every community, I continue to work to promote healthy dating relationships. As we make progress on this issue, it is comforting to know that there are many people working toward this same goal, especially teens. I am proud of the many Idaho teens who are instrumental in the "No Means Know" campaign, which raises awareness among their peers by encouraging them to spread the word regarding acceptable dating relationships. In a joint effort to address this problem, the American Bar Association and teens across the nation spearheaded "The Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Initiative" in 2004. Congress declared the first national "week" in 2006 and continues to do so each year. Since its inception, a number of governors have also declared proclamations, and today, the Initiative includes over 50 national, state, and local agencies and organizations as partners.
This is a seemingly intractable problem, but it can be prevented. To do so, we must educate people on the warning signs associated with such violence. Teen dating violence can only be mitigated by raising awareness and acting upon warning signs---especially among parents, teachers, and students. For more information on groups who are working on this problem, statistics on its prevalence, information on discerning signs of abusive relationships and more, please go to http://crapo.senate.gov/issues/teen_dating_violence.cfm.
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