The statistics are alarming: in one year, close to 1.5 million high school students in this country suffer physical abuse at the hands of the person they are dating. (1) This issue is not unique to any specific social, economic or racial group and the most serious cases end up in the headlines. Now New Jersey is considering steps to help stop this growing social problem.
This week a State Assembly panel approved a bill, introduced by the Education Committee, which would require schools to include lessons on dating violence in their health curriculum. The lessons would be geared toward middle and high school students in grades 7 through 12. In addition, teachers and other staff members would be trained to recognize the signs and handle incidents of dating violence that may occur at school. (1)
Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey released the following statistics, supporting the need for education about this social issue:
• One out of every three dating teenage girls in this country is the victim of abuse — physical, verbal or emotional;
• 59% of dating students have suffered physical violence;
• 96% of dating students have been emotionally or psychologically abused;
• 57% of high school students know of someone in an abusive relationship. (2)
Many teens involved in abusive relationships turn to friends for advice and help before confiding in an adult. The proposed bill would help teens to identify violent relationships by providing them with a definition of a healty relationship and examples of what healthy relationships might look like. Teens would also be taught to recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship.
Other states in the country are considering comparable laws and six have already passed similar legislation. One of those states is Rhode Island, home state of Lindsey Ann Burke, a 23-year-old victim of dating abuse who had been murdered by an ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, stories like Burke’s are not rare. In fact, 30% of 15- to 19-year-olds who are murdered every year are killed by husbands, boyfriends or former boyfriends. (3)
The New Jersey legislation is pending a vote by the full Assembly. An identical bill has been introduced in the State Senate. (1)