(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John F. McKeon, Pamela R. Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Benjie E. Wimberly, which designates February as ‘Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month’ in New Jersey is now state law.
One in three adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds other types of violence affecting young adults. Nationwide, one in ten high school students has been deliberately hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and more than one in four teenagers have been in a relationship where a partner is verbally abusive.
“The prevalence of violence among our youth involved in dating is highly disturbing and can have serious negative repercussions on its victims including substance abuse, eating disorders and psychological and emotional trauma,” McKeon (D-Essex\Morris) said.
“A recent White House report highlighted a stunning finding of the occurrence of rape on college campuses, with one in five female students being assaulted and one in eight victims reporting it. Teen violence is unacceptable and we need to stand up against it. The measure we sponsored will promote public awareness and help increase the prevention of violence in dating,” he added.
The law (formerly AJR-39) names February of each year as “Teen Dating Violence awareness and Prevention Month” and requests the governor issue an annual proclamation calling on public officials, high schools, law enforcement agencies, the residents of the state and other interested groups to observe the month with appropriate activities and programs.
“Violent crime among our youth should not be shrouded in secrecy. Yet sexual assault is often under-reported for many reasons. By designating February as ‘Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month,’ we hope to encourage necessary dialogue between victims, school officials, counselors, parents, and law enforcement,” Lampitt (D-Burlington\Camden) said.
According to the recent White House Council on Women and Girls report, no one is more at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted than women at our nation’s colleges and universities. Nearly 22 million American women and 1.6 million men have reportedly been raped in their lifetimes and have chronicled the devastating effects including depression, substance abuse and a wide range of physical ailments such as chronic pain and diabetes.
“Timely guidance from parents can help prevent teen violence in dating, which is why it is crucial to encourage a dialogue on the subject. According to the results of a survey conducted by Futures Without Violence, while a majority of parents believe that they have had a conversation with their teens about what it means to be in a healthy relationship, the majority of teens surveyed said that they have not had a conversation about dating abuse with a parent in the past year,” Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) said. “The measure we sponsored will facilitate a dialogue between parents and their teens and will help increase the safety of New Jersey youth.”
The 2009 survey on ‘The Facts on Tweens and Teens and Dating Violence’ conducted by Futures Without Violence also noted an increasing trend in violence through the internet.
“Digital abuse and sexting are becoming a new frontier for teen dating abuse and one in four teens involved in a relationship say they have been called names, harassed, or put down by their partner through cell phones and texting,” Wimberly (Bergen\Passaic) said. “We need to address this new threat to our youth through public programs and discussions that are dedicated to the prevention of teen violence during the month of February.”