Congress is considering legislation that could help reduce what the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund calls a national epidemic of teen dating abuse, reports Women’s eNews. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act did not fund services for teens, nor did the renewed 2000 legislation, which nearly doubled the funds for domestic violence services to $3.3 billion over five years. A new version of the law would allot $3.9 billion over five years to fund civil and law enforcement services related to gender-based violence, including $15 million annually for new initiatives targeting teens.
A survey out last month found that 57 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds reported having friends in abusive relationships. The survey of 683 teens, sponsored by Liz Claiborne’s Love Is Not Abuse program, echoes other studies that show 1-in-3 teen relationships are physically or sexually abusive. A 2001 Department of Justice report found women and girls aged 16 to 24 experienced the highest rate of intimate partner violence. Only one state–Massachusetts–mandates teen-dating-violence education. While studies show that teen dating violence is a severe problem, the issue has not been tracked steadily. Studies since the 1990s have repeatedly found the effects to include low self-esteem, depression, suicide and eating disorders. Grades are more likely to slip and other relationships are almost certain to suffer.