By
JONATHAN W. BLODGETT
ESSEX DISTRICT ATTORNEY


He was a well-known high school athlete, seemingly the All-American boy.

He was a teenage batterer. On at least one occasion, his girlfriend was treated for her injuries in the emergency room of a local hospital, and he was prosecuted in juvenile court.

Teen dating violence knows no socio-economic boundaries. It is a growing problem in today's society, impacting many young people in our communities. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Special Report, 40 percent of teenage girls, ages 14-17, say they know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend. More than 30 percent of high school girls have experienced teen dating violence.

According to the City of New York Teen Relationship Abuse Fact Sheet (March, 1998), nearly 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.

District Attorney's Offices across Massachusetts have prosecuted scores of teen dating violence cases, with charges including rape, assault, assault and battery, indecent assault and battery, stalking, and even homicide.

They are cases we abhor, and it is imperative that all of us work tirelessly to confront this issue to ensure the safety of our children.

It is why my office, in conjunction with Lynn Police and students from Lynn English High School, conducted mock trials for high school students during the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is why those trials were videotaped and will be distributed to schools across Essex County.

It should be noted that while girls are most commonly the victims of teen dating violence, sometimes boys fall into that category as well. Teen dating violence also impacts Gay and Lesbian relationships.

Educators and parents must be fully cognizant of the issue, and be immediately responsive if a child is at risk. Police and prosecutors must investigate and prosecute cases with the utmost urgency. Social service agencies have to continue to provide guidance and assistance.

And not to be underestimated, students, as peers, as friends, as leaders, must be intolerant of abusers, make it clear that abusive behavior is not acceptable, and be supportive of the victims.

If you are ending an abusive relationship, I suggest you tell your parents or someone you trust that you are afraid, avoid being alone with your partner, let others know where you are going, go to court for a protective order, be aware of your surroundings and stay safe. Vary your route to school, work, and your home, and call 911 in an emergency.

If you are helping someone leave an abusive relationship, talk to the teen and do not be judgmental about the abuse. Encourage the teen to get help, refer them to a hotline or other appropriate resource, learn more about teen dating violence, and tell the teen that you care and are concerned.

In addition to police, educators, parents, and my office, some of the resources available include HAWC (Help for Abused Women and their Children) in Salem, Lynn and Gloucester, the Women's Crisis Center in Newburyport and Amesbury, Women's Resource Center in Lawrence, YMCA Domestic Violence Program in Haverhill, Rape Crisis Services, HES, Beverly, Victim of Crime and Loss Program, HES, Salem, Massachusetts Safe Link (887-785-2020), and National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233).

We all have the right to live our lives without fear, in happiness, and with dignity. If you are a victim of teen dating violence, never doubt that you deserve better.

Be assured that help is at your side.