As we wind up National Dating Violence Prevention Awareness and Prevention Week here in the United States, I thought I'd write a note to let people know that Break the Cycle, one of the nation's leading organizations addressing teen dating violence, issued the first ever state-by-state report card evaluating the level of legal protection each state offers young victims of domestic and dating violence earlier this week
The report cards are designed to draw special attention to the discrepancies between the protections afforded to adult victims of violence as compared to teen victims. States were graded on an A through F scale. States that do not allow minors to obtain restraining orders were given an automatic "F." According to Break the Cycle, 15 states received an "F" while only three -- California, New Hampshire and Oklahoma – received "A's."
The grading system is made up of an in-depth assessment of key elements within each state's domestic violence statutes. The system was established after Break the Cycle conducted a nationwide review of state laws. The study revealed a number of common trends -- both positive and negative -- that directly impact the protection of teens.
Considered in the equation were such factors as: age restrictions; parental consent requirements; and whether or not dating even qualifies as a "domestic relationship." Along with the grading system, Break the Cycle released recommendations for improvement of state domestic violence laws. The organization is working with law enforcement, community leaders and politicians across the country to raise awareness and strengthen protections for teens. For more information or to view the full report, visit http://www.breakthecycle.org.
I was glad to see that my home state of Illinois scored a "B" -- it is not an "A," but certainly not an "F." Break the Cycle has done a great job of putting the information in easy to use fact sheets that are really easy to understand and very helpful.
If you are a parent, a teen, or someone who cares about these issues, or if you are just curious, you should take a look. You may be surprised about what it takes to get help if you are involved in an abusive or stalking relationships and you are underage.
And turning the page a little bit, with Valentine's Day coming up next week, I think it is worth taking time to look at ALL the relationships in our lives -- family, friends, co-workers, community-- as well as our intimate ones -- to see if they are as healthy as they can be. After all, the people around us are really the most valuable things in our lives and worth the time, aren't they? If you ever need more information about such things, check out our website at www.caepv.org.
Happy Valentine's Day -- and I wish for all of us to feel loved and safe and secure with the people who love us most!