With special contribution from Olivia Hinerfeld
On Wednesday, April 13, loveisrespect and our partners at Mary Kay Inc. were in Washington, DC to host a briefing on dating violence for members of Congress. We were excited to welcome several outstanding panelists who discussed the prevalence of teen dating violence and the importance of educating young people about this issue.
Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, kicked off the event by talking about how important it is to offer online chat and text services to young people 24/7, ensuring that “individuals know that…help is available.” Special guest Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) described her own experiences in an abusive relationship as a young woman. She said that “it’s hard to become a productive human being, male or female” if you experience abuse at any point in your life.
Left to right: Katie Ray-Jones, Rep. Gwen Moore and Dr. Jacquelyn White, loveisrespect advocate Danielle. Photos by Olivia Hinerfeld.
Panelist Jacquelyn W. White, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, emphasized that “teens and young adults are at much higher risk than older adults” for dating violence. She said that many young people know someone who has been verbally or physically abused, and abuse can have long-lasting effects, including poor health and increased substance abuse. Dr. White stressed that most young people (73-86%) say they would turn to a friend for help.
To offer context to the information shared by Dr. White, a dating abuse survivor from the DC area bravely shared her personal story of being in an abusive relationship. “Nobody taught me about this,” she said. After being assaulted by her partner, she realized, “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do at that moment.” She discussed the importance of teaching young people about dating violence.
One of loveisrespect’s peer advocates, Danielle, offered more perspective, saying that “there is not a ‘typical’ form of an abusive relationship” and “the way that relationships are portrayed in the media and pop culture affects how teens and young adults define abuse.” She discussed the necessity of having highly-trained advocates available to provide confidential support digitally through chat and text. “Although I don’t always know the end of the story for the people I chat and text with,” she said, “it makes me feel like I’m fulfilling a purpose by being there to provide emotional support, validate their experiences and connect them to resources.”
Thank you to Mary Kay Inc. for supporting this event!
Learn more about the partnership between loveisrespect and Mary Kay here.