The following is a letter to the editor by Kamakshi Ranjan, a Teaneck High School student:
It is now about two years since a bill to address teen dating violence was signed into law in New Jersey. This has resulted in many initiatives across New Jersey schools. Dating violence is now included in the school curriculum and schools have now begun to address the warning signs of dating abuse, reporting procedures and available resources for students. The NJ Department of Education’s Task Force on Dating Violence has developed a model policy and guidelines for Incidents involving dating violence for schools to use (available at http://www.nj.gov/education/aps/cccs/chpe/dating/policy.pdf). The passing of the law and establishment of the task force were important steps in the right direction but the work needs to continue.
This February, during the National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month it is important to take the time to remember that domestic violence is not just a problem for adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s youth risk behavior study findings indicate that approximately 9% of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey. One in three girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape. Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser. More recently, technology has become a big source of dating abuse, one in four dating teems is harassed or abused through technology. Two-thirds of teens who are in an abusive relationship never tell anyone about the abuse. Moreover, though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse. Therefore, it is critical that we shine a light on teen dating abuse and raise awareness on this topic.
Recognizing abuse in a relationship can be very difficult for teens. There are many types of abuse that teenagers may believe are normal in a relationship. Even though teen relationships may be different from adult relationships, teens can experience the same types of abuse. Teens also face unique obstacles if they decide to get help. They may not have money, transportation or a safe place to go. They may also have concerns about confidentiality with many adults obligated to make reports to police, parents and/or child protective services.
During February, the national teen dating awareness month, take the time to educate yourself and others about teen dating violence. The following websites offer information about teen dating violence and what you can do to help:
Install the ‘Love Is Not Abuse’ iPhone app on your phone. This app is an educational resource for parents that demonstrates the dangers of digital dating abuse and provides much needed information on the growing problem of teen dating violence and abuse. The app is available free of charge in the iTunes App Store under ‘Love Is Not Abuse’.
Know that there is help available for teenagers. Peer advocates are available to support teenagers 24/7 livechat at http://www.loveisrespect.org/get-help/get-help, text "loveis" to 77054 or by phone at 1-866-331-9474 (tty 1-866-331-8453)