MADISON, Wis. - Reliable estimates are that a third of teens in the U.S. will be subjected to physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner before leaving high school.
Wisconsin is not immune, according to a bipartisan group of lawmakers sponsoring legislation to address the problem. The lawmakers' bill would require every school district in Wisconsin to develop a curriculum to educate students in grades 7 through 12 about dating violence.
Chase Tarrier, public policy coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, says the issue of teen dating violence is a public health crisis in Wisconsin. "This is not just something that happens occasionally here and there or in certain communities and not others," he points out. "This is a widespread, rampant violence that our students are experiencing in this state, and it's important that we take a very robust and widespread approach to dealing with this issue."
The bill requires local school boards to develop and adopt policies prohibiting teen dating violence at schools and school events. Schools would have to have formal procedures in place for identifying and dealing with teen dating violence. Tarrier says there's no better time than right now to move forward in dealing with the issue. "We are really at a watershed moment right now as far as the spotlight being shined on sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, abusive relationships, and so I think we really have a rare opportunity right now in Wisconsin to say, 'You know what? We take this problem extremely seriously.'" he states.
The goals of the legislation include promoting healthy relationships between teens, replacing harmful messages about women as sexual objects, and promoting a message of equality and respect. "This is not a low-income problem or a high-income problem," Tarrier stresses. "This isn't a Milwaukee or Madison problem. This is a nationwide issue and it affects all communities across our state, so (it's) really critical that we start to take steps to address this problem."
Tarrier says the abusive adults of tomorrow are likely beginning to develop their pattern of unhealthy behaviors in teen relationships.