A call for teen dating violence education

The summer has come and gone and middle and high school students are the midst of new classes, new extracurricular activities and forming new romantic relationships. We have an opportunity to start the school year off on a strong foot by teaching our kids how to have healthy relationships, what is acceptable and what is not.

I recently participated in a program hosted by the National Foundation for Women Legislators, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Liz Claiborne Inc., and the Verizon Foundation that made me realize just how much unhealthy relationships are impacting teens today. Nearly 1 in 10 American high school students experience physical dating violence and there are serious health consequences for young children who witness violence in their homes.

This eye-opening program focused on teen dating violence and reinforced the urgent need to take a stand against this serious social and public health epidemic. It was heartbreaking to hear from parents who had lost their children to dating violence and from a teen survivor who endured emotional and psychological abuse. Their touching testimonies reinforced the fact that abuse does not discriminate. Anyone can be a victim.

Thankfully there are public and private sector collaborations and teen-led initiatives around the country to address teen dating violence and provide young people and parents with creative tools and resources, like the recently launched Love Is Not Abuse iPhone app, programs that focus on engaging young men such as Verizon Foundation’s “Training Camps for Life,” and healthy “break-up” summits.

Education is essential to stopping abuse before it even starts. It is Detroit’s turn to get involved. Please join me in this national effort to promote teen dating abuse prevention. We all have a stake in protecting our children.

Irma Clark-Coleman
Wayne County Commissioner
District 6