By Hannah Sherman, JWI Intern
Being not so far removed from my teenage years, I believe I have a bit of insight into the minds of teenage girls. The inner workings of our brains spend our waking hours focusing on dating, schoolwork, dating, preparing for college, dating, and-oh, yeah-dating. In our impressionable adolescent years, where we are taught that social currency relies on things like who asks you to the homecoming dance, it is astounding that we are never educated in things directly relating to our dating lives. My experience in high school health class could have been taken straight out of the movie Mean Girls: a sports coach masquerading as a health teacher stood awkwardly in front of the classroom, lecturing us on how sex is bad, and abstinence is the only choice. This was about the extent of any kind of education we received on any subject relating to teen dating/social lives.
Teen dating violence is a huge epidemic in our generation, and the lack of education on the subject only feeds the cycle of abuse. Ann Burke, the founder and President of the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund, is all too familiar with the devastating effects of Teen Dating Violence. In an interview on NPR, Ann recounts the story of her 23 year old daughter, Lindsay, who was brutally murdered by her abusive ex-boyfriend. An educator herself, Ann praises the role of teen dating violence education in being able to prevent more tragedies, wondering if such an education would have changed the fatal outcome for her daughter. It is important to understand that Lindsay did not have the passive personality one would imagine of a victim of abuse; she was the stereotypical girl next door, assertive and confident, proving that teen dating violence can happen to anyone.
Because of this, the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund has designed tools to educate and help everyone recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship. If we are able to pinpoint these specific red-flags, we are increasing the potential victim’s chance of escaping such a life-threatening situation. We must also understand that even if we are not a victim or we don’t know anyone who is, it is still of the utmost importance to be educated; you never know when you may need to use this life-saving information. Education gives us the power to recognize abuse and equips us with the knowledge to help ourselves and others.
It is for people like Lindsay Ann Burke that we observe February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, four weeks dedicated to the education of the public in order to prevent these violent crimes from continuing. JWI is doing our part with our Healthy Relationship curriculum, guiding all teens through an open discussion of the relationships in their lives. As Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sing, “Teach your children well.” If we can accomplish this goal, maybe one day we will live in a world where we no longer have to worry about teen dating violence.