Only a handful of states have responded to teen dating violence with laws enabling the youthful victims to obtain protection orders on equal terms with adults, an advocacy group says in a new national survey.
The report on state laws by Break the Cycle, a teen-violence prevention organization that has worked with the Justice Department, gave A grades to only five states. Grades were based on various comparisons between the legal treatment of adult victims of domestic violence and teen victims of dating violence.
Failure was automatic for states where protective orders are unavailable for minors, or where dating relationships are not explicitly recognized as valid for obtaining such orders.
“It is essential that dating violence and the needs of minor victims be specifically addressed within state domestic violence statutes,” said Marjorie Gilberg, executive director of Break the Cycle. to propose legislation that will ensure the protection of all victims of domestic violence — regardless of their age.” National surveys have estimated that one in three youths experiences dating abuse at some point during their teens — incidents ranging from a slap on the cheek to homicide.
Despite the high rate of abuse, Break the Cycle and other advocacy groups say too many states do not treat dating violence with appropriate seriousness.
“If you’re a parent, you want to know if your child is in danger, but on other hand, teens want the anonymity, to not have to tell their parents,” she said.“It’s very complicated, trying to find a balance between a victim’s rights and parents’ right to know.” Kristina Korobov, an attorney with National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, said it’s sometimes crucial for teens to be able to seek protective orders on their own.They may have strained relations with their parents or come from a home where domestic violence already is occurring.Korobov, a former prosecutor in Indianapolis and Loudoun County, Va., said it’s important in such instances for courts to provide an attorney or other expert to guide the youth through the legal process.The report commended New Hampshire as the only state where the law specifically allows minors of any age to go to court by themselves to request a protection order.It received an A along with California, Illinois, Minnesota and Oklahoma.