June 24, 2009
Recession fuels dating violence, curbs prevention in US teens
(WOMEN'S E-NEWS)--A survey released earlier this month finds that teen dating violence rates are higher than ever, with the economic crisis apparently worsening rates of abuse of between parents and among teens.
Those June 10 results come out as school budget cuts hinder education programs focused on preventing dating violence.
The survey, commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and Family Violence Prevention Fund, found that nearly half (44 percent) of teens whose families have experienced economic problems in the past year have witnessed verbal or physical abuse between their parents, and 67 percent of those teens have experienced abuse in their own relationships.
Overall, nearly 1 in 3 teens (29 percent) reported experiencing sexual or physical abuse or threats of such abuse in dating relationships and nearly half (47 percent) reported experiencing controlling behavior from a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The survey also found that almost two-thirds of parents whose teens have been in dating relationships believe their children have never experienced abuse, despite numbers that suggest higher rates.
Most parents are not talking to their children about teen dating violence, according to the findings, with 80 percent of teens turning to friends for help. Only 25 percent of teens reported taking a course on teen dating violence in school.
'Parents Need to Learn'
"Parents need to learn. They're so oblivious," says Monique Betty, 19, who suffered dating violence in middle and high school.
Providers of services to prevent dating violence, who have seen an increase in teens reporting abuse, believe the rise may stem from growing awareness of the issue.
"I hope that it is more that kids are able to identify it better, because there has been more education and awareness around it," says Lucy Rios, director of prevention at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Among other growing educational efforts, Liz Claiborne reports having distributed 4,600 free copies of its "Love Is Not Abuse" curriculum nationwide.
National teen dating violence education leader Break the Cycle will market a DVD-based curriculum with testimonies from survivors and experts for under $100 to schools across the country, starting this fall. The organization, which has its headquarters in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., will also distribute 1,000 free copies in Southern California.
An online educational video game is also in the works in Rhode Island.
Video Game Teaches Safety
Using a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Providence-based domestic violence nonprofit Sojourner House, along with the youth advocacy group Young Voices and the Rhode Island Department of Education, is developing an interactive game that will allow teens to navigate through dating violence scenarios in a high school setting.
Ten other sites received grants from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, including an organization in Idaho, where Monique Betty, the survivor of dating violence, will provide mentorship to students in middle school.
Such innovative projects rekindle hope, but Ann Burke, whose daughter was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 2005, wishes nationwide implementation of school curricula on teen dating violence was going better.
Burke pioneered the passage and implementation of a law requiring teen dating violence education and policy in Rhode Island and worked closely with the state's attorney general Patrick Lynch, a Women's eNews 21 Leader 2009.
She says similar laws or resolutions in at least nine other states have been "watered down" by the budget crisis.
Such resolutions tend to recommend rather than requiring education.
As Rhode Island schools struggle with crippling budget cuts, Burke has single-handedly trained over a thousand school staff members, including more than half of the state's health teachers, through the privately funded Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund.
Amy Littlefield is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.
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