District attorney talks on teen dating violence at Greater Lowell Tech
The Lowell Sun
February 9, 2014
TYNGSBORO -- Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan led a recent training session for 300 teachers and staff members at Greater Lowell Technical High School to raise awareness about the epidemic of teen dating violence.
"The statistics are frightening," Ryan said. "One in three teens report knowing someone who has been physically hurt by their partner. We have to recognize the complexities of teen dating today, and the way abusers can exercise control in these relationships, particularly through cellphones and social media. Teen dating violence, as with adults, is about power and control, and can be as abusive and dangerous."
The program provided teachers with information about the prevalence of teen dating violence and the role they can play to ensure that teens have access to resources and support if they are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship.
According to Ryan, young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest per-capita rate of intimate partner violence in the nation, according to recent studies. Furthermore, only 3 percent of teens in abusive relationships report the abuse to authority figures.
Ryan spoke about the evolving nature of teen dating and relationships.
"Before we all carried cellphones and had access to computers, young people would communicate after school hours with friends through phone calls at home, giving parents the opportunity to know who was calling and how often," she said. "The proliferation of electronic devices has changed all that. Now, teen relationships exist in an environment of constant communication, with text messages exchanged at all hours of the day and night and endless social-media posts, often unseen by adults or even teens' friends.
"These online communications, which may include abusive language and threats, can take place in private and can quickly escalate to manipulation, bullying or pressure to have sex or to take sexually explicit photos," she added.
Ryan shared resources with school staff, including information about two Lowell-based programs, Alternative House and the Lowell Community Health Center, that provide services and counseling for victims.
She urged teachers to be engaged with their students on the topic of teen dating violence. Among her recommendations were to:
- Establish an advisory board on teen dating abuse.
- Develop a written school policy.
- Provide in-service training to increase awareness.
- Develop resources for intervention and referrals.
- Maintain a zero-tolerance climate for dating abuse.
After the presentation by, Greater Lowell Tech student Jonathan Shoemaker and teacher Briana Burtsell presented a mobile application and informational materials created by students to address teen dating violence through the Greater Lowell Evaluation and Advocacy Network, a domestic-violence, high-risk assessment and rapid-response team created in 2012 by the District Attorney's Office in partnership with the Lowell Police Department, Alternative House and more than 20 other public, private and nonprofit agencies.
For more information on prevention and intervention programs hosted by the Ryan, visit www.middlesexda.com