By Councilwoman Nora Ellen
Domestic violence often is associated with mature, adult relationships, but it is an issue that is alarmingly prevalent among our teenage population. According to national statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 teens experience verbal, emotional or physical abuse by an intimate partner.
From a law enforcement perspective, domestic violence calls are very high. According to the Arizona Governor’s Office, an officer responds to a domestic violence call every 5 minutes in our state; and in Chandler, police officers responded to 3,024 incidents last fiscal year.
Teen dating violence was the topic of discussion at this year’s City of Chandler Domestic Violence Commission’s annual awareness breakfast. Members of the Chandler Police Department, local agency representatives, youth representatives and community members gathered to hear testimonies from teenage victims and learn about prevention, resources and referral services.
Unfortunately, too many parents are unaware or ill-equipped to deal with the challenges their children are facing. Too many adults mistakenly believe that teenagers can resist peer pressure and have the strength and maturity to avoid potentially hurtful and dangerous situations. Alcohol, date rape drugs, exposure to pornography, sexting and bullying exacerbate the problem.
Little by little, we are seeing more legislative action to help protect victims of abuse. Earlier this year, legislation authored by State Rep. J.D. Mesnard to ban revenge pornography was passed for the first time in Arizona.
As a proponent of preventative measures, I was very pleased to learn at the breakfast about two outstanding nonprofit organizations dedicated to prevent teen dating abuse. Bloom365, also referred to as gopurple.org, and Kaity’s Way both use multilayered approaches to target and educate teens, families, teachers and police officers about healthy relationships and the risk factors of teen perpetrators.
Both agencies focus on improving communication between adults and teenagers so they can be empowered and ultimately prevent abuse early on. Bloom365 offers a curriculum-based model in schools: “Teens learn how to spot red flags of an abusive relationship; set boundaries; resolve conflicts; boost self-esteem; build healthy relationships; prevent root causes of power and control and inspire social change for their generation.” Kaity’s Way also provides training to law enforcement officers, information for victims, and referrals to the National Teen Dating Violence Hotline at 1-866-331-9474.
In Chandler, our police department’s crime prevention and victim services units offer outstanding programs as well. They work hard to reach out to constituents in churches, youth organizations, schools, corporations and through various public forums. Their efforts are critical to breaking the cycle of domestic violence and saving lives from abuse.
I encourage parents and guardians to look into Chandler’s Guardian Academy. It is a free 12-hour class that educates and informs adults about resources to promote healthy relationships within families. Topics include social media, bullying, gangs, sex crimes and much more. The next class is open for enrollment, and it is scheduled to start Feb. 7. Visit the police department’s website at chandlerpd.com, or call Chandler’s Victim Services Unit at 480-782-4535 for more information about prevention and resources for victims.
It is important that each of us becomes part of the solution and end domestic violence and teen dating abuse. I congratulate members of the Chandler Domestic Violence Commission and police staff for highlighting the campaign and engaging our community all year long.