By Crystal Arbuthnot
of the Redwoods
Even as you read this, teen girls are being hit, slapped, belittled, and sexually abused by a dating partner. It’s called teen dating violence. And the sad truth is, it may be happening to a teen girl you love. Your daughter. Your sister. Your friend. An even sadder truth? You may not know about it. Many people don’t. When they think of domestic violence, they usually envision adults. Or, they minimize it, attributing it to fights between young lovers or the drama of puppy love. In addition, many teen victims rarely tell others about the abuse. They may fear reporting crimes because they have acted against their parents’ wishes or fear retaliation by their perpetrators.
Soroptimist, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world, wants you to become aware of this hidden epidemic. We, as members of Soroptimist International of The Redwoods, want you to know the alarming numbers.
Today in the United States, one in three girls will have an abusive dating experience by the time she graduates from high school. More than eight million girls per year will suffer at the hands of a violent boyfriend before she reaches the age of 18. Those statistics should frighten and concern everyone. Parents, teachers and teens themselves need to know these facts and more — that while teen dating violence can be physical, it is also verbal, emotional, and sexual. More and more, the abuse is extending to cyberspace where teens are controlling and stalking dating partners through cell phones and the Internet.
The consequences are often dire. Teens who are abused in a dating relationship often engage in drug and alcohol use, may suffer eating disorders or depression, and even commit suicide. In some cases, boyfriends murder their dating partners.
The U.S. Senate takes this issue seriously. In 2010 the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Resolution 373, which designates the entire month of February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. In honor of this month and to create public awareness around this issue, Soroptimist International of The Redwoods’ members will be distributing literature about teen dating violence at all of their fundraising functions this month and will also be putting information in future publications of the Redwood Times so the public can learn more about this critical issue and what can be done.