Every 15 seconds, a woman in this country is battered by her significant other. One out of four women will be victims of domestic abuse at some point in their lives. Domestic violence is an ongoing problem that many people deal with on a regular basis. The recent incidents highlighted by the press illustrate that domestic violence does not only affect particular socioeconomic classes or races – it affects everyone.
It is unfortunate that issues of social importance often only gain attention when they involve a celebrity, such as the recent media coverage of domestic violence. But there is hope. There are many of us who fight for victims of domestic violence every day.
This past legislative session, the Assembly passed a package of bills that strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence. I also sponsored legislation to increase punishment for domestic violence offenders. Although some might argue that increased penalties do not serve as an additional deterrent, one must recognize the peace of mind victims might have from knowing whoever has hurt them will be locked away for longer.
While the majority of victims are women over the age of 21, more and more young women are falling victim to teen dating violence. Approximately one in three young women in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. These statistics are startling and we must find solutions.
This year, I funded a teen dating violence pilot program, the Jessica Tush Peer Education Project, named after a Staten Island teenager who was the victim of dating violence. The program, which will begin at the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design (WHSAD), will use a peer-education model to teach youth and school personnel how to prevent and identify teenage dating violence.
The program will provide culturally comprehensive preventative education curricula linked to the Common Core State Standards to all incoming ninth graders. Programs like this take direct aim at preventing future incidents of domestic violence by making children aware of the dangers at a young age.
The private nature of domestic violence makes it especially devastating to its victims. That’s why we must do everything in our power to support and empower victims and their families every day, not only when the issue is brought to the spotlight by the media.
If you or someone you love is being abused, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). For more information, visit NDVH.org.
Assemblymember Joseph Lentol represents the 50th A.D.