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Are We Believing Teens When They Report Dating Violence?

If we don’t, their lives could be in danger

by DomesticShelters.org

UK teen Shana Grice went to police for help when her ex-boyfriend, Michael Lane, was harassing and stalking her. But police turned her away—even fining her for false reporting and wasting police resources because she failed to disclose the two had been in a romantic relationship.

In August 2016, after tracking her whereabouts by placing a GPS monitor on her car, Lane, 27, murdered Grice, 19, in her apartment by slitting her throat. He pled not guilty and was later sentenced to life in prison.

Law enforcement failed Grice. Perhaps she would still be alive if Lane had been arrested on stalking or harassment charges. But we’ll never know. What we do know is that only a third of teens ever disclose dating violence to a friend, parent, trusted adult or police, so it’s imperative they be taken seriously when they do.

More Counselors, Teachers Are Aware

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a new awareness about teen dating violence,” says Wynn, who now trains law enforcement around the world on how to respond to domestic violence. “There’s more awareness, which has led to additional training not only with law enforcement but with teachers and school counselors. School resource officers are now doing a lot more to work with teachers to recognize stalking and dating violence.”

Where Wynn sees the largest opportunity to make a difference is in getting more teens to report dating violence so they can be helped.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement because of the reluctance of teens to call,” he says. “It’s not dissimilar from the reluctance for an adult victim to call, but teens have added concerns: They worry about peer pressure and their parents finding out.”

But parents and teachers may just be the key to protecting youth from dating violence.

“Unless someone tells you this is what a violent [partner] looks like, young people wouldn’t know,” Wynn says. “We need to constantly reinforce the fact that it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault.”

There’s An App For That

One organization that’s doing a great job, Wynn says, getting the word out is One Love, whose mission is “to ensure everyone understands the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.”

“An interesting thing the One Love foundation did is they created a risk assessment app,” Wynn says. “It’s designed for young women, ages 16 to 24, and you can download it for free.”

The app, called myPlan, was created in conjunction with researchers from Johns Hopkins University and uses 20 years of research about female survivors of abuse. The app asks a series of questions to help users determine how risky their relationship is and then assists them in making a safety plan.

Wynn hopes that once teens are better educated on dating violence, they might be more inclined to come forward when it happens to them or someone they know. Teen dating violence is common. Don’t think it won’t happen to your child. Check out one couple’s story in “Breaking the Cycle of Teen Dating Violence.”

One More Thing…

Can I get a protection order without telling my parents?

The answer is, it depends on your state’s laws. Some states allow juveniles to file for orders of protection on their own or with the consent of another trusted adult like a teacher or coach. Learn more about how the laws vary state to state in this article.


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