February 19, 2009

ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR HAS NO PLACE IN DATING RELATIONSHIPS

By Senator Mike Crapo

With a struggling economy and Congress on the verge of passing the largest spending bill in the history of our country, it seemed unlikely in early February that entertainers could make any real headlines. But there it was-on Sunday, February 8, R & B star Chris Brown and award-winning pop singer, Rihanna, his girlfriend of nearly a year, would not be performing at the Grammys. Why? There had been a fight-with injuries. Brown was arrested and Rihanna (Robyn Fenty) was pressing charges, alleging domestic violence.

Regardless of the outcome of the situation involving Fenty and Brown, news of it brings national attention to the crime of dating violence. As is evidenced by this situation, income levels or perceptions of "perfect couples" have little to do with whether or not dating violence can happen. It occurs in relationships at any income level, ethnicity, or, as we already know, in urban or rural settings. However, one simple way to reduce the frequency of dating violence is to raise awareness-just talking about it is a huge step toward healing and behavioral changes. As many Idaho teens have done over the past few years under the leadership and guidance of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence's "No means Know" campaign, we can raise awareness among our teens by encouraging them to spread the word about what they do and do not have to tolerate in a dating relationship. Most importantly, we can talk to our kids about what constitutes a healthy dating relationship.

Every year since 2006, I have sponsored a Senate Resolution that declares the first full week in February "Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week." The Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Initiative has gathered over 50 local, state and national partners-a network of organizations, agencies and individuals committed to stopping abusive behavior in dating relationships. You may be aware of the "No Means Know" campaign here in Idaho and the good work that is happening across our state because of it. At the University of Idaho, the Teaching and Learning Center addresses dating violence on campus, and individual shelters across Idaho support this effort. High schools in Connecticut and New York are partnering in the Initiative. Organizations like Liz Claiborne, Inc., the Girl Scouts, Girls, Inc., Break the Cycle, state domestic violence coalitions nationwide, shelters in North Carolina and Delaware, and leading national domestic violence prevention and victims' advocacy groups have joined the Initiative and share information and ideas with multiple federal agencies, also partners in the Initiative.

It has been a priority of mine to advance the cause of healthy dating relationships. As you know, destructive behavior in a teen or young adult dating relationship will almost certainly manifest itself in a future permanent relationship. Our young people need to break dangerous habits now, for their own physical and emotional well-being and for the sake of the children they will have in the future.

As February draws to a close, remember to be aware of warning signs of abusive dating behavior in your own relationship or in that of friends, if you are at a dating age. If, like me, you have young adult children, engage with them about their relationships. Ask questions, listen and do the best thing you can do-model healthy relationships yourself. For more information about the Initiative, warning signs and resources, please visit my website: http://crapo.senate.gov.

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