Target: Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls
Goal: Raise awareness for and lower rates of violence in teen relationships throughout the United States
Physical and psychological violence is becoming increasingly common in the romantic relationships of American teenagers. Unfortunately, awareness of this problem is low, with many schools and communities unequipped to address instances of abuse that can cause lifelong damage to young victims. Urge Valerie Jarrett to promote, on a national level, community education on how to deal with unhealthy and violent teen relationships.
Amazingly, about 30 percent of U.S. adolescents today are victims of a physically or psychologically abusive relationship. This alarming statistic was uncovered by a recent nationwide study in the Pediatric Journal. Equally alarming is the study’s subsequent discovery that teens who experienced dating violence were two to three times more likely to be in violent relationships later in their lives, and significantly more likely to engage in high risk behaviors or have suicidal thoughts.
Although much needed, the resources offered by school counselors are not enough even to begin uncovering and resolving the problems teenagers are dealing with today. The real solution must come from the communities in which teens are living.
As a coach, educator, and father, Ohio teacher Gary Gerhardt knows this well. He recently attended a Seattle conference put on by Idaho’s OVW Step Prevention Institute—an initiative aimed at spreading awareness of teen violence. A proponent of community inclusion on the subject, he is helping to integrate a support network into his own neighborhood. Defining part of the problem, he said, “Kids don’t always know who to turn to. It could be a teacher, but it could just as easily be a coach or other community member.” This is the kind of mindset that could do wonders for teenagers all over America and ensure the mental health of up-and-coming generations. Not only counselors, but teachers, after-school staff, private team coaches, parents, and police officers need to be educated on teen violence so that unhealthy relationships can be recognized and addressed.
The Step Prevention Institute is just one branch of Idaho’s Center for Healthy Teen Relationships, an excellent example of a community outreach system. Programs like this are a blueprint that communities struggling with teen violence can build off of. Sign this petition urging Valerie Jarrett to encourage implementation of community support systems across the nation and tackle the issue of violence in teen relationships.
Dear Valerie Jarrett,
As you know, violence in teen relationships is rising at an alarming rate throughout the United States. With resounding effects that will carry on throughout the lives of America’s youth, the issue of violence in teen relationships must be dealt with immediately and efficiently. Your achievements in addressing this issue have been many and great, but I wish to suggest an additional focus for your efforts.
The most powerful tool for recognizing and resolving instances of teen violence is a well-connected, well educated community. A troubled youth may not turn to a policeman or school counselor—may not turn to a friend or even a parent. In order to catch abusive relationships as they occur, we must educate as many community members as possible on what to look for and how to be a support option for at-risk youth.
Some communities are already involved in this kind of activity, but many are not. Idaho’s Center for Healthy Teen Relationships—and indeed the state’s other domestic violence programs—offer an excellent example, a blueprint that cities and states with no support systems could duplicate and build off of. In the interest of future generations, we must spread this kind of awareness and education. I urge you to bolster your fight against teen violence, and give more attention to the implementation of community support systems for teenage victims of abusive relationships.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Cassandra Jowett via Flickr