Legislation To Reduce Teen Dating Violence

The “Stop Abuse for Every Teen Act” or SAFE Teen Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Michael Crapo (R-ID) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and U.S. Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Dave Reichert (R-WA), all are Congressional champions of ending domestic and dating violence victims.

Teen dating violence has become the rule, not the exception. A large part of the reason the Institute of Medicine just recommended domestic violence and intimate partner violence screening as part of preventive health care is due to the alarming prevalence of dating violence among young people.

About 72% of 8th and 9th graders report dating; 1 in 4 adolescents report emotional, physical, or sexual violence each year; and 1 in 10 adolescents report being a victim of physical dating violence. Over 40% of young people who report they are victims of dating violence say that the incidents occurred in a school building or on school grounds.

If students don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to be truant, have lower grades, and drop out of school. Those who witness violence are also affected, and also experience decreased school attendance and academic performance.

In addition to physical injuries, teens who are victims of dating violence face a host of negative health consequences including depression and suicide, eating disorders, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking and alcohol abuse. Victims of dating violence are also three times more likely to become pregnant and more than two times as likely to report a sexually transmitted disease.

To date, at least 15 states (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington) have passed teen dating violence laws that urge or require school boards to develop curriculum on teen dating violence, most without additional funding or guidance.

The federal legislation attempts to correct this problem by allowing schools that receive federal funding for bullying and harassment to include teen dating violence prevention. Schools are also encouraged to train school personnel on the issue and incorporate response mechanisms into school policies.Read a summary of the issue and an overview of what the bill would do.SAFE Teen Act Summary

The legislation has been advocated by Futures Without Violence, and a coalition of domestic violence and education advocacy organizations that support the legislation, including the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Foundation, Love is Not Abuse Coalition, Jewish Women International, the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and the Girl Scouts of the USA.

We must stop the cycle of violence. This legislation helps schools play an important role in preventing teen dating violence.

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