Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Kids Are Alright

July 2, 2019

IMG_5889“The Kids Are Alright” is a phrase that could bring up memories of the legendary rock band The Who from the 1960s or a short-lived TV show by that name in 2018, but we’re using it to highlight the teens in our Future Leader scholarship program. These girls recently attended a “Women in the Workplace” panel and listened as YWCA Academy Leaders Molly Cline and Evelyn Rice Peebles talked about women working in male-dominated fields and the strategies they used to succeed. Despite the different fields Molly and Evelyn chose – science and government respectively – the girls noted that the two women faced similar hurdles. The teens embraced the message of following your passion, preparing yourself for the challenge, and maintaining your personal ethical standards. The GIRLS Are Alright! (And so are our amazing Academy Leaders!)

Permanent Supportive Housing

June 10, 2019
This month, we’re featuring Permanent Supportive Housing.
Serves: Single women ages 18+ who have experienced chronic homelessness and have a diagnosed disability. Chronic homelessness is defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as 12 consecutive months of homelessness or four episodes of homelessness over the past three years. Permanent Supportive Housing follows the best practice philosophy of the Housing First Model which put low barriers to entry. People who are struggling with employment, mental illness or substance dependence are provided with housing so that they can first reach a place of stability and from there work towards finding employment or participating in mental health and/or substance use treatment.
Services provided:
· 13 furnished apartments. Tenants pay a portion of their income for rent.
· Case management services
· Life skills coaching
· Metro passes (funded by HUD/CoC grant contract)
· Library/community room to promote socialization
· Commercial kitchen and dining room
· Computer, printer, fax and copy service
· Social activities
· SLU Campus Kitchen Project donates weekly meal delivery
Outcomes:

YWCA Gala Highlights Services

June 10, 2019

Sharing Stories & Celebrating Success

At last month’s 3rd Annual YWCA Gala, attendees witnessed the importance of YWCA Metro St. Louis and the impact of its programs in our community. Kathy Howard, Forensic Nursing Coordinator for SSM Saint Louis University Hospital, shared some of the knowledge she’s gained from 30 years of working with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in emergency rooms alongside police and YWCA victim’s advocates. She praised YWCA for invaluable work in helping traumatized victims.
Also, YWCA’s free counseling services for survivors were highlighted in a video about Christy, a victim of childhood and adult abuse, who found recovery and healing at YWCA, which you can see at Christy’s Video. Christy credits YWCA as a “safe place” where women can get help. She’s right – thanks to our variety of services, YWCA provides safety, security and stability to thousands of women and their children every year! That is our mission in action…real people with real challenges getting real help.
Thanks to our 220 guests, the Gala’s total is now $225,000 and climbing, as donations are still coming in. These funds help support YWCA services. What’s more, many guests became new members of YWCA’s annual giving society, the 1905 Society.
Thank you to the YWCA Gala Event Committee and Board of Directors for their leadership and unwavering enthusiasm! And a special thank you to our event sponsors, and to all of you who were able to join us!  Gala Facebook Photo Album  

 

CELEBRATING WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH THE STL WAY

March 13, 2018

March is Women’s History Month; a time where we express extra love and admiration for our sisters, past and present! This month is dedicated to celebrating the divine Feminine energy and Existence that radiates throughout humanity, taking the form of Women. Despite the long history of Women being marginalized, taken advantage of by the patriarchal society we live in, harassed and abused, along with other forms of injustice acts, we always rise above with immense strength. During this month, it is important to rejoice all women; past and present; of all cultures and ethnicities; of all sexual orientations and identities; of all religious backgrounds and beliefs; of all socioeconomic statues and classes; and so on. There’s no better way to gather as one, than doing it within your own community, showing support to local Women making communal strides through art, activism, support, strength, and sisterhood. St. Louis is rich in culture and is built on community togetherness, so celebrate the right way and join in the magical journey that is being a Woman. Show up for your sisters and radiate that love! Below are some St. Louis based events that will certainly be a source of light within the community this month.

{{{EVENTS SCHEDULE}}}

Black Women Speak: A series of activities celebrating Women’s History Month.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

  • A Black Woman Speaks Performances: Friday/Saturday March 16, 17 @ 7 PM and a Sunday Matinee Brunch (call for details) from 11:30 AM- 2 PM @ The Griot Museum of Black History on 2505 Saint Louis Ave, St. Louis 63106

+++ “A Black Woman Speaks is a one-woman show that celebrates the life of legendary African-American actress and political activist Beah Richards who used her artistry to break down racial barriers. The play is a powerful commentary on the history of oppression and resistance of African American women from slavery to present time. It calls for women of all ethnicities to work together for justice, peace and the betterment of humanity.” +++

Dr. Mary Helen Washington, Distinguish Professor of English at the University of Maryland and author of The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s, will engage the audience in a post-show discussion on the current roles of the African American feminist in today’s social climate.

From Shame to Serenity: A Woman’s Journey to Healing

  • WHAT: Women will learn how to uncover and address shame, while understanding the significant impact it has in their lives. This discovery will mark the beginning of living an abundant life full of serenity.
  • WHEN: Thursday, March 15 at 6 PM- 7:30 PM
  • WHERE: InPower Institute on 4125 Humphrey St., St. Louis 63116

Unified Unstoppable: Saving Ourselves

  • WHAT: “Women of color continue to be an immovable force in the community, using their voices to heal, educate, empower others, and activate change. While advocates and allies are vital, self-determination is central to the fight for equity in the workplace. This thought-provoking and diverse panel will discuss how women of color are shifting the dynamic in six critical areas: economic security, the wage gap, health, educational attainment, political leadership, and entrepreneurship.” ADMISSION IS FREE, BUT REGISTRATION IS REQURIED.
  • WHEN: Thursday, March 22 at 6 PM – 8 PM
  • WHERE: Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis 63112

Equal Pay: Celebrating Women Composers

  • WHAT: Women from the St. Louis Symphony team up to play music written by only women composers. Included on the program are works by composer Kristin Kuster who will introduce her works during the concert.
  • WHEN: Friday, March 23 at 7 PM- 8:30 PM
  • WHERE: St. Louis Symphony on 718 N Grand Blvd, St. Louis 63103

Deconstructing the Trope of the Angry Black Woman

  • WHAT: Washington University professor Kim Norwood will lead an in-depth discussion on her popular article “Aggressive Encounters & White Fragility: Deconstructing the Trope of the Angry Black Woman.”
  • WHEN: Thursday, March 29 at 7 PM- 9 PM
  • WHERE: Missouri History Museum at 5700 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis 63112.

 

Creating a Space for Fashion in Women’s History Month

March 9, 2018

 

By Kaelyn Cobos

I feel like those who may come across this article may be wondering, “What role does fashion play in the scope of Women’s History Month?” The fashion world itself is ever-changing in terms of aesthetics, trends, and leaders, but one factor has continued to remain at the center: women. Women have served as fashion designers, models, photographers, marketers, and consumers, among many other roles. Therefore, the relationship between women and fashion is one that is both thought-provoking and relevant. Indeed, if one looks at women’s history, one can see how it greatly influenced the evolution of fashion.

In her article “Building a Feminist Theory of Fashion,” gender studies scholar Ilya Parkins goes as far as to say that fashion in and of itself is a “zeitgeist,” a phenomenon that encompasses the spirit of an era. As a zeitgeist, we can use fashion to see the cultural differences, racial structures, and ideologies of women at a given point in time, through the way they expressed themselves in both their appearance and taste.

In addition, fashion is one of the only industries that embraces “femininity.” Makeup, clothing, beauty, and shopping tend to be viewed as feminized products, characteristics, and acts. In wider society, these qualities are often degraded or criticized. Or alternatively, they’re used to depict women as vain or materialistic when they are merely upholding the gendered beauty standards of their day (in short, what is the alternative?). But fashion embraces these qualities. In doing so, the fashion industry can become a way to both empower women and subvert patriarchy through women’s manipulation of their bodies and beauty standards.

Coco Chanel (1920).

In the early 20th century, as Eleanor Dunne points out in Wonderland Magazine, Coco Chanel revolutionized how women dressed through popularizing trousers as a fashion item. Chanel’s early female clothing lines also incorporated interesting fabrics that were previously used primarily in menswear, such as tweed, wool, and jersey. While a simple change in fabric or a switch to pants may seem menial right now, back then it was a way to liberate women from the usual wear of corsets and waist cinchers.

While it is important to acknowledge the interwoven history of women’s liberation and fashion, it is as important to attend to recent feminist criticisms of fashion. In 2017, for example, as journalist Sarah Taleb reported in the Huffington Post, French atelier Yves Saint Laurent received tremendous backlash after a particular advertising campaign posted throughout Paris.

In one poster, we see thin models wearing fishnet tights and seated with their legs spread. In another, we see a model in similar attire bent over a stool. L’Autorité de régulation professionnelle de la publicité (ARPP)—a French regulatory agency that specializes in public advertising—received a total of 120 complaints on their website only days after the campaign went public. A Parisian-based women’s rights group, Osez Le Feminisme (Dare to be Feminist) was extremely vocal about the removal of the advertisements from public view, stating that the images objectified women and promoted unhealthy body images to the youth. The backlash was so severe that it gave birth to a trending hashtag: #YSLRetireTaPubDegradante (Yves Saint Laurent: Get rid of your degrading advertisements).

Fashion has both mirrored and made women’s history. It has been liberating, but it has also seen dark times. While many like to view fashion simply as a form of art and expression, I have always thought about it differently. I see it as a business: it is an industry after all. But while contemporary fashion exists specifically to sell something, we can still use fashion to express ourselves. Fashion will always be important in women’s history, but it is as important to see where the industry has hurt the feminist movement. By doing so, we can better exercise our agency. We can speak out by using the platform where a woman’s voice is heard the loudest. 

Kaelyn J. Cobos is a senior studying marketing, French, and service leadership at Saint Louis University. She hopes to work in analytics someday and finds solace in 1980s pop culture, haute couture, and watching 20-minute film analyses on YouTube. 

What to Do When Faced with Teen Dating Violence By BreAnna Walker

March 5, 2018

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen dating violence is more than physical abuse. It can also be sexual, emotional, and psychological. Although some think teen dating violence isn’t a serious issue our society faces, loveisrespect, a program of the nonprofit National Domestic Violence Hotline that seeks to eliminate teen dating abuse, reports that nearly 1.5 million high school students report some sort of abuse from a dating partner in one year. If that number still doesn’t seem like a lot, this means that 1 in 3 adolescents are victims of dating violence. 


A major issue with teen dating violence is a lack of knowledge on the subject. When we think about intimate partner violence, we are more likely to think of “spousal abuse,” or “battered wives,” or “domestic violence” than we are to envision teenagers. But with recognition of teen dating violence as a widespread problem, we can educate the public on the issue. This will help so many individuals heal, as well as prevent future occurrences of violence.

What are signs of teen dating violence?

According to Break the Cycle, an organization devoted to ending dating abuse and promoting healthy relationships for people ages 12-24, the following may signal an unhealthy relationship:

One partner . . .

. . . checks the other’s cell phone, e-mail, or social networks without permission.

. . . demonstrates extreme jealousy or insecurity.

. . . subjects the other to constant belittling or put-downs.

. . . has an explosive temper.

. . . isolates the other from family and friends.

. . . makes false accusations about the other.

. . . exhibits constant mood swings.

. . . physically inflicts pain or hurt toward the other in any way.

. . . is possessive.

. . . tells the other what to do.

. . . repeatedly pressures the other to have sex.

The presence of signs like these can help us determine if our partners show abusive behaviors, or if our friends or family members are with an abusive partner.

What are the effects of teen dating violence?

The effects of teen dating violence are more than physical injury. According to the CDC, teen dating violence can lead to the following:

Symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco, drug, and alcohol use.

Antisocial behaviors.

Thoughts of suicide.

What are my options for seeking help when dealing with teen dating violence?

Although some have a certain individual they can trust—whether a parent, sibling, or friend—not all individuals have these resources or feel comfortable discussing some of the traumatic events they face with an abusive partner.

One resource available to all is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The hotline is open all hours of the day, and it offers several options for those seeking help. You can call 1-866-331-9474 to speak with an advocate.

Another resource is loveisrespect, a subsidiary of the National Domestic Violence Hotline that specifically addresses teens. You can chat at loveisrespect.org, or text “loveis” to 22522.

Some find it best to speak over the phone with someone, and others are more comfortable writing to describe the events they have experienced or feelings they have. In whatever manner you are most comfortable, through these sources, you can contact an advocate all day, every single day.

In addition to helping victims/survivors, the above links can take you to educational materials, online interactive trainings, and other resources to provide the education that we all need about teen dating violence.

What resources are available local to St. Louis?

If you are looking for help in the St. Louis area, the YWCA Metro St. Louis is a great resource. In the event of a sexual assault, you can call the YWCA Rape Crisis Line at 314-531-7273 or the YWCA Women’s Resource Center at 314-726-6665. In the case of intimate partner violence, reach out to the YWCA Metro St. Louis’s Woman’s Place, which is a non-residential, drop-in center where you can speak with an advocate. Woman’s Place is located at 140 North Brentwood in Clayton, MO 63105. Or you can call 636-373-7911 or 314-645-4848. These sources provide immediate assistance, advocates, and answers to questions you may have. They also provide education: they host frequent constantly have workshops and programs to empower and educate us all about intimate partner violence.

I’ve never experienced teen dating violence, but how can I help those who have?
 

Being educated on the subject of teen dating violence is important if we want to be there for those who have dealt with this violence. The YWCA has programs for those who have faced violence, and also for those who want to help break the cycle. For a list of upcoming workshops and programs, see this printable flier. It’s time to address the issue of teen dating violence, and it starts with you. 

BreAnna Walker is a nursing student at Saint Louis University.

Pregnant Teens: Forgotten Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

March 5, 2018

 

By Zach Sarvis

Teen dating violence is a serious problem overall, but among teenagers who are targets of abuse, some of the most at-risk groups are pregnant teenage women. In fact, one scholarly study from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that 38% of pregnant teenagers report being abused by their partners. According to Break the Cycle, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping young people establish healthy, abuse-free relationships, these teens are often particularly reluctant to seek help for abuse because they are ashamed of their pregnancies. Furthermore, they often became pregnant by their abusers, which makes leaving even harder.

It is sad to say that sexualized violence, and resulting pregnancies, can even become a tool of abuse and manipulation. One study has reported that 68% of women who have been physically abused also reported sexual assault.

Male abusers may force women to have sex without a condom, and they may also take away their birth control pills as an additional form of control, for many abusers believe that their partners’ access to birth control enables them to cheat. Some abusers also intentionally impregnate their partners so that they feel they cannot leave.

As Break the Cycle points out, teenaged women are especially at risk as targets of such coercion; because they are often not financially self-sustaining, they become financially dependent on their abusers, especially older men, and especially if pregnancy is part of the equation. According to a study on teenage pregnancy in the American Journal of Public Health, “In 1993, only a minority (34.5%) of California’s 46,500 school-age mothers gave birth after liaison with a school-age peer; by contrast, about two thirds (65.5%) had a post-school-age adult partner who, on average, was more than 4 years older.” This study was one of the first to challenge the assumption that teenage pregnancies typically involved teenage fathers. It helps to explain the coercion and abuse related to teenage pregnancy.

What can we do about it? Break the Cycle uses the acronym “RADAR” to suggest a path forward:

R:    Routinely screen all pregnant teenagers for abuse because the abuse rate is so high for them.

A:     Ask questions in a caring, non-judgmental way.

D:     Document information and all pertinent physical abuse signs.

A:     Assess the teen’s safety.

R:     Review options for the teen to escape the abusive relationship.

One of the best methods to reduce the abuse of pregnant teenagers is by reducing the rate of teenage pregnancy in the first place. As stated earlier, many abusers intentionally get their victims pregnant to prevent them from leaving. Many of these women are financially dependent on their abusers, and therefore neither they nor their child will not have enough financial support if they leave the abuser. Access to birth control, particularly for poor women, can engender both economic and emotional independence, which can make it much easier for them to leave their abusers.

Pregnant teens are often marginalized by everyone around them, even seen as failures in life. What is often left unconsidered is that many of these teens are physically and emotionally abused by their significant others, and they are less likely to leave their abusers because they are shunned by society. Many of these abused women hold the detrimental belief that they deserve this abuse. As a society, discouraging teenage pregnancy is a noble cause, but it also happens to mean that teens that do become pregnant do not receive the support that they need. Since the levels of abuse are so high for pregnant teens, it is necessary that we as a society show compassion rather than shun these women.

Zach Sarvis is currently a freshman at Saint Louis University, majoring in mechanical engineering.

How to Help a Friend Who is Experiencing Dating Violence

March 2, 2018

 

By Morgan Kelly

Pixabay; Public Domain.

Any form of teen dating violence is unacceptable, but it can be especially worrisome when you notice one of your friends is in an unhealthy relationship. According to loveisrespect.org, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline that focuses on teen dating violence, one in three teens in the United States experience abuse in a relationship. As a result, it is not unlikely that you will know someone who is the victim of teen dating violence. Maybe you have witnessed abuse in a friend’s relationship firsthand, or maybe you just suspect it. Either way, it is important to know the signs of teen dating violence so you can identify problematic relationships.

Every relationship is different, but there are common signs of dating violence. These include:

  • One partner degrading or criticizing the other in front of peers.
  • One partner who makes excuses for the other’s volatile behavior.
  • One partner who is controlling, jealous, and possessive.
  • One partner who has signs of physical harm, such as bruises or scratches.

If you notice a friend is in a relationship that exhibits one or more of these signs the relationship may be unhealthy. While it can be difficult to step in, it is often necessary. But how does one do so? If someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there are many things you can do to offer them your support.The hardest step is often confronting your friend. Be sure to have this conversation in a private place. This will ensure that the victim feels more comfortable to disclose information. Start the conversation by saying you have noticed a pattern of behaviors that resemble the ones listed above, and tell your friends that you are concerned they may be a victim of dating violence or in an unhealthy relationship. 

Once you have created an open dialogue with your friend, it is important to listen and acknowledge the victim and their story. Allow them to talk. Victims of teen dating violence can often feel unheard, so simply listening and believing a friend is a huge step toward helping them. Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault. 

It is also important to acknowledge that they are in a difficult situation. There are many obstacles in abusive relationships that make it difficult for victims to leave, and it is important to recognize these issues. As a friend, you should support the victim as they navigate their abusive relationship. It is not uncommon for a victim to return to the relationship, so be patient if this happens. Continue to offer support by listening to your friend and encouraging them to participate in safe activities with friends and family. 

You can also inform them about how to obtain professional help.  There are many resources for victims, such as hotlines. Below is a selected list of national and local resources that can help victims of teen dating violence, including sexual assault:

  • School counselors.
  • loveisrespect.org‘s National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474, or by text at 22522.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Call 1-800-799-7233 for referral to a local support group, or participate in the online chat at http://thehotline.com.
  • Here in St. Louis, call the YWCA Metro St. Louis Regional Sexual Assault 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at 1-314-531-7273.
  • Also in St. Louis, the YWCA St. Louis Woman’s Place, a non-residential, drop-in, crisis intervention, education, and support service. The drop-in center is located at 140 North Brentwood in Clayton, MO 62105. To speak with an advocate, call 635-373-7911 or 314-645-4848.

Remember that leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. The victim will need to take their time and make decisions at their own pace. Your job as friend is not to save them, but rather to listen to them and offer them resources that will help them get help. With that in mind it is also important to understand that if an individual is serious danger you should step in and get help from emergency services. Similarly, remember to prioritize your health and safety. The YWCA can be a resource to you as a friend; they can help you help your friend.

Morgan Kelly is a freshman student at Saint Louis University.

Gaslighting: The Hidden Abuser

February 26, 2018

 

By Amasil Fahim

In the 1944 movie Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, Boyer’s character, Gregory, would manipulate a gas light, lowering it at various times without notifying his wife Paula, played by Bergman. When Paula commented on the sporadic changes in the lighting, Gregory would confidently tell her that the flickering gaslight was only a figment of her imagination, planting a seed of doubt in her mind about herself. Gregory continues to plant these seeds of self-doubt and confusion in Paula, convincing her she is losing her mind, which enables him to control her without her realizing it.

YouTube Video

 
The trailer for Gaslight (1944).
 
This scenario occurs every day in abusive relationships. Due to its depiction in this film, it has taken on the moniker “gaslighting.” Gaslighting a particular type of mental abuse where information is manipulated in order to benefit the abuser, and false information is presented with the intent of causing self-doubt in the victims—who begin to second-guess their own memories, viewpoints, and stability. Loveisrespect, a subsidiary of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, describes how abusers utilize gaslighting as a form of manipulation: they withhold information, present counterfactual information as believable, block or divert their partners’ lines of questioning, trivialize their partners, and conveniently forget or deny that certain events have happened.
When an abuser “withholds,” the aggressor feigns a sense of confusion, refuses to listen to the victim, and declines to share their emotions. The abuser may say something like, “I’m not going to listen to you confuse me with that crap tonight.”
When an abuser “counters,” the aggressor will continuously question the validity of a victim’s memory, even if it is correct.  The abuser may say something like, “Last time you thought the same thing and you were wrong.”
When an abuser “blocks” or “diverts,” the aggressor decides to change the conversation from the current subject or topic to questioning the victim’s thoughts and manipulating the conversation. The abuser may say something like, “You are trying to hurt me on purpose.”
When an abuser “trivializes,” the aggressor causes the the victim to believe that their thoughts and needs are not as important. The abuser may say something like, “You’re seriously going to let this cause a rift between us?”
When an abuser “forgets” or “denies,” the aggressor pretends to forget things that have happened in the past or denies things that have previously happened. The abuser may say something like, “What are you even talking about? That never happened.”
 
The continuous use of these techniques can cause the victim to cultivate self-doubt, up to the point where they will become too scared or anxious to even question anything the aggressor talks about, since now they fear that they cannot even trust their own memories.
Abusers utilize gaslighting because it is a gradual way to cause a victim to become more anxious, isolated, and depressed—so much that they can even lose their sense of reality. This causes the victim to start depending on the aggressor to interpret the world for them, which is a dependency very difficult to escape. The worst part about gaslighting is just how gradual it is; most of the time people don’t realize it’s happening before it is too late. As a result, the best way to avoid it is to know the signs and be able to recognize and identify it.

Amasil Fahim is a first-year student at Saint Louis University; she is originally from Plainfield, Illinois.

 

Awful Truths About Teen Dating Violence

February 21, 2018

 

By Mehmed Omerovic

Approximately 1 in 10 high school students have admitted to experiencing intentional physical harm at the hands of their romantic partners. Consider for a moment that these are just the ones who have enough courage to admit that such events occurred. This suggests that the reality of teen dating violence may have even uglier numbers. Young adults are at major risk of being physically or sexually abused—and furthermore, these events have severe repercussions psychologically and emotionally.According to DoSomething.org, teens who suffer from dating abuse are subject to long-term consequences like alcoholism, eating disorders, promiscuity, suicidal thoughts, and even further violent behavior. In short, high school students who experience dating violence face severe ramifications—so society needs a plan of action to stop violence as well as offer treatment for survivors.

But just what is teen dating violence? When many people think about intimate partner violence, they often think about “domestic violence,” which harks to families, or “spousal abuse,” which refers to married couples. But intimate partner violence can take many forms. Whether it’s pushing, hitting, or forcing someone into unwanted sexual acts, teens are just as capable of violence towards one another as adults. Both males and females suffer from this issue, but in the United States, the rates of violence against teenage girls are particularly high. For example, 25% of high school girls have been abused physically or sexually in the past year. According to one research study form 2014 in which almost 87% of participants were enrolled in school, nearly 1 in 5 female participants and 1 in 8 males reported past-year physical dating violence.

Teen dating violence can be a special problem not just because of its widespread nature, but because of uneven legislation. For example, 8 states in the U.S. do not consider violent dating relationships to be a form of domestic abuse largely because crimes committed by juveniles are seen as “kids being kids”.  A report on state laws by Break the Cycle, a teen-violence prevention organization that worked with the Justice Department, graded laws in place for all states and assigned 12 states with D’s and 11 failed. Only 5 received A’s. Laws such as those in Virginia make it hard for teens to get protective orders because it limits cases considered to those where the victim and perpetrator have been married or lived together. However, this does not apply to most dating violence. This means that adolescents, teens, and 20-somethings in these locations are unable to apply for a restraining order as a basic protection from their attackers. Perhaps more states should follow New Hampshire’s solution which allows minors of any age to go to court by themselves to request a protection order.

Researching this issue, I reached out to a close friend in a California high school who has admitted to me that she has experienced intimate partner violence. I asked her to reflect on it. Her response was as follows: “It made me feel bad and like I could never do anything right. And if I did something right he would steal the victory. If I didn’t want to have sex with him he would be mad at me and ignore me until I made up to him.” The abuse tore her down emotionally, which then made her susceptible to being guilted into unwanted sexual acts. While she was able to get out of this relationship to have her voice heard, others aren’t always as lucky.

Teen dating violence has other ramifications as well. Girls who have suffered abuse are 6 times more likely to develop an early or unwanted pregnancy or to catch a sexually transmitted infection. And when cases involve rape or other physical/sexual abuse, 50% of victims attempt suicide. With statistics like this in mind, it seems clear that despite the silence surrounding teen dating violence, this is not a personal problem. It’s a public health crisis.

To be sure, increased risks of suicide attempts, alcoholism, or even early pregnancies create huge problems for not just the youths and their loved ones who experience these issues individually, but for society itself. Alcoholism provokes further dangerous behavior whether it’s driving drunk or even more violence. Early pregnancies can result in mothers who cannot afford to properly care for their babies, or girls who cannot complete their educations. The pain of teen suicide for all who knew the victims speaks for itself. Teens who have been abused hesitate to seek for help due to fear of exposure or even just being unaware of laws that could protect them. Teen dating violence is a societal issue, not a personal one, and it must be better addressed by those in charge.

Mehmed Omerovic is a senior engineering student at Saint Louis University, and is taking a course on gender, race, and social justice this term.


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