Ellie’s Expression: Teen dating violence epidemic needs to end

After being shot in the face by her boyfriend three years ago, Waco resident Carolyn Thomas has endured countless surgeries to repair catastrophic wounds to her face, and is still waiting for more permanent teeth. She now flies all over the country to lecture and talk about domestic violence and abusive relationships. (Jim Mahoney/Dallas Morning News/MCT)

With Valentine’s Day in our recent past, love is in the air. It’s hard to escape the sappy ballads, cheesy rom-coms, and couple pictures on Instagram during February.

With all the good, it is easy to overlook the ugly truth of relationships: according to VAWnet.org, “One in three teens will experience physical or sexual violence in their relationships.”

Despite this staggeringly high number, the negative outcomes of abuse (including truancy, alcohol and drugs abuse, eating disorders, depression and suicide) and the fact that adolescents and young adults have the highest rates of intimate partner violence of any age group, the

Avon Foundation reports, “three in four parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence.”

Luckily, Webster requires students to take health. What may seem like a fairly insignificant class teaches us one of the most important things we learn in school: how to spot unhealthy and abusive relationships. While these lessons might not be perfect, they at least attempt to start the conversation, educate students and prevent abuse.

Our school is trying to protect and educate. Our country is not.

According to dosomething.org, “Eight States in the U.S. do not consider a violent dating relationship domestic abuse. Therefore, adolescents, teens and 20-somethings are unable to apply for a restraining order for protection from the abuser.”

Fortunately, Missouri is not one of them, but it still requires people to be 17 years of age or older to get a restraining order against an abusive ex-partner. Due to this and other laws protecting abusers,

Missouri received an F when “graded” by the organization Break the Cycle.

A failing grade in protecting our youth is not acceptable. As a state and as a country we should be protecting “the weak and the weary.” We were built on “justice for all,” but where is the justice?
If abuse starts at an impressionable age, then the idea of what it means to be in love is skewed. The pattern of abuse will continue unless something is done so that one in three becomes none in three.

Eleanor Marshall – Opinion Columnist

This is Eleanor Marshall’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year. She has been recognized for her work by JournalismSTL, MJEAand MIPA.

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