By Hannah Sherman, JWI Intern
As hard as it is to believe, February has almost come to an end. While this usually signals the transition into the beautiful springtime weather (although, who are we kidding, the average temperature here in DC for the past three months has been about 55 degrees) the end of February also marks the culmination of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Today, JWI and Futures Without Violence, the YWCA, Men Can Stop Rape, the American School Counselor Association hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill titled Prevent Teen Dating Violence: Stop Violence Against Women Before It Begins. The distinguished panel of speakers included Elizabeth Miller, Chief of Division of Adolescent Medicine for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; Joe Torre, Major League Baseball and Founder and Chairman of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation; and Gloria Terry, President of the Texas Council on Family violence; all of whom spoke on the impact of engaging men in prevention efforts. Speakers on the subject of teen dating violence prevention strategies included Debbie Lee, Vice President of Futures Without Violence; Gabrielle Union, Award-winning actress and sexual assault advocate; Erin O’Malley, Dean of Faculty and Counseling at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, VA; and Yesenia Romo, Director of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago’s Sexual Violence and Support Services. Additionally, Congressman David Reichert (R-WA), Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) all spoke of their deep support for finding ways to end teen dating and domestic violence.
As a proud child of the ‘90s, I’m not ashamed whatsoever to admit that I can probably recite, word for word, the movies Bring It On and 10 Things I Hate About You. At today’s briefing, Gabrielle Union, an actress in both of these teen classics, touched on a much more serious topic than the ones covered in the previously mentioned films. A victim of brutal assault and rape as a teen, Gabrielle has become an anti-violence advocate, using her celebrity to promote this cause that is very true to her heart. Similarly, Major League Baseball star Joe Torre has used his own past of coming from abusive home in order to create the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, developing educational programs that will end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives.
Each and every one of the speakers highlighted the urgency of continued funding and legislative actions to prevent teen dating violence, stressing the importance of having authority figures teens can confide in, from coaches to school counselors. In creating a safe environment, young people will hopefully feel more comfortable discussing this personal issue and seeking help when needed.
The speeches of Congressman Dave Reichert, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, and Congressman John Lewis exemplify that the fight for legislative action should be a bipartisan achievement. Their collective efforts prove that teen dating violence is not an issue of politics, but an issue of health and safety for all people, regardless of political affiliation. Violence doesn’t discriminate and neither should the policies regarding teen dating and domestic violence.
Just because the month of February is over, this does not mean we should turn our attention away from this ever increasing problem in society. If we continue to fight for better legislation we will continue to take steps closer to ending teen dating violence and creating a safer and happier world for all.