by Madeline Shepherd, NCJW Legislative Aide
When I was a senior in college, the reality of domestic violence—and specifically teen dating violence—hit closer to home than any study or statistic ever could. I was preparing to graduate when another student killed his girlfriend, who was a sophomore at the time. Shock and sadness of indescribable depth enveloped our campus, a small community where you knew most of the faces you passed on the sidewalk. Overnight, we were pitched into a national debate about dating violence and mental health. Reporters roamed the grounds and snapped pictures of the candles and photographs assembled to honor the victim. We mourned as best we could, while the story was splashed across major news networks. Our paths have diverged, but every student present that day carries the memory we wish we didn’t share.
According to the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, three women are murdered by their partners every day in the United States. By my calculations that breaks down to one woman killed in the eight hours I spend at work; one for my time attending class, eating dinner, and relaxing with my roommates; and a third for the hours I’m asleep and preparing for another day.
February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness month. This name, important though it is, doesn’t do justice to the physical, mental, and emotional repercussions of what happened on my college campus and what takes place among young people every day across the country. Teen dating violence is more pervasive than most people realize. Every year, 1.5 million high school students across the United States experience physical abuse from a dating partner.
There are warning signs of abuse and ways to offer help and support to victims and there is even help for perpetrators-who can be found in relationships regardless of gender or sexuality.
Signs that someone might be abusive include:
- telling a partner what to do
- physically hurting a partner in any way
- or isolating a partner from family or friends.
If you observe abuse or suspect a relationship is abusive, you can reach out and express your concern for the victim’s safety. By listening and acknowledging her feelings you can help a victim realize that abuse is not normal or justified. Focus on the victim, help connect her (or him) to resources in the community for help, and don’t contact the abuser, which could make things worse.
Every so often I think about the young woman at my school whose life ended so abruptly. We were at the same parties, shared mutual friends. She was an advocate and passionate about ending hunger and poverty. Nothing can bring her back; there is no caveat to this fact. But her story has impacted how I perceive violence, because it’s more prevalent than we would ever hope and can hardly imagine. That’s why legislation like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), as passed in the Senate, is so vital. In fact, the Senate-passed VAWA actually improves and increases protections for victims of dating violence, particularly on college campuses. But wherever the violence takes place, no one in the United States should be left without resources or help.
The information here was gathered from Break the Cycle at LoveIsRespect.org, where you can find additional resources if you or someone you know are part of an abusive relationship.
Read more HERVotes blogs on VAWA
- Congress Must Act Immediately to Reauthorize Federal Legislation to Protect All Victims of Violence, Dara Richardson-Heron, MD, YWCA
- Don’t Be Fooled, Janet Hill, Coalition of Labor Union Women (USW)
- Advocating for an Inclusive VAWA, Amanda Reed, National Organization for Women (NOW)
- This Season’s Paul Ryan? Eric Cantor Takes on VAWA, Terry O’Neill, National Organization for Women (NOW)
- Prioritizing Campus Safety, American Association of University Women
- Victims of Abuse Suffer Each Day an Inclusive VAWA Reauthorization is Delayed or Weakened, Avril Lighty, The Leadership Conference Education Fund
- Whatever Affects One Woman, Affects ALL Women, Bernardita “Beni” Yunis Varas, Young People For
- When Dating Violence Hits Close to Home, Madeline Shepherd, National Council of Jewish Women
- Violence Against Women Act Must Move Forward, National Association of Social Workers
- Join Ashley Greene and Support VAWA, Love Is Respect
- Support VAWA, Love Is Respect
- Servicing Members is Sometimes Sad, Judy Beard, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)
- House of Representatives Republicans: You Should Represent Women Too, Phyllis Johnson, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)
- Turning “Ifs” into “Whens”: College Students Like Me Need Reauthorization of a Full VAWA, Dana Bolger, NWLC
- New Congress should focus on passing VAWA, Sharon Stapel, New York City Anti-Violence Project
- House can no longer ignore violence against LGBT community, Sharon Stapel, New York City Anti-Violence Project
- Congress’ Opportunity to Protect All Women From Violence—We Say, Yes!, Cristina M. Finch, Women’s Human Rights Program, Amnesty International USA and Adjunct Law Professor, George Mason University School of Law
- A VAWA For All Victims, Shaina Goodman, National Network to End Domestic Violence
- WHY WOMEN’S VOICES MUST “ROAR” IN MARCH, 2013, M. DeLois (Dee) Strum, The National Coalition of 100 Black Women