Today, I had the opportunity to speak at the 1 is 2 Many Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month event at the White House. In attendance were family members of victims who were killed by teen dating violence, high school and college students, and a variety of organizations and school association representatives. The program featured speakers from the Departments of Education and Justice and ended with a group discussion with the students.
Ending violence against all women is a priority of this administration. And today’s reauthorization on the Violence Against Women Act will help further reduce teen dating violence. The author of the original legislation, Vice President Biden also dropped by to speak to the teens and families at the event.
Unfortunately, teen dating violence is still far too common. As many as one in 10 high school students nationwide have reported that they were intentionally physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend, and still more experienced verbal or emotional abuse like shaming, intimidation, or threats. That’s why it was so important to hear from young people who are committed to stopping the violence. Their advocacy and action inspires us to fight to end teen dating violence.
Addressing teen dating violence is critical in our broader efforts to empower young women. I chair the White House Council on Women and Girls, which President Obama created nearly four years ago. He gave the Council an important mission – to make sure that all federal agencies consider the needs of women and girls in every policy, every program and every piece of legislation.
Every corner of the federal government has responded to the President’s charge, and that includes our efforts to end violence against teens and young women.
We have focused on two goals: First, to improve our response to dating violence so that victims can get better help. And second, to make sure that the violence doesn’t happen in the first place.
When Vice President Biden announced the 1 is 2 Many campaign in 2011, he charged us with identifying concrete steps we could take to meet these goals. We created new ways to reach survivors through text messaging, online services, and mobile apps. We held regional forums around the country to engage men into the conversation about violence against women. And last summer, President Obama and Vice President Biden released a public service announcement featuring David Beckham, Jeremy Lin and other star athletes speaking out about dating violence.
We also recognized the importance of working with schools, because we knew that they could play a vital role in responding to violence, and helping survivors get connected with services. Research shows that when schools have policies in place to reduce violence, rates of teen dating violence and sexual harassment go down.
To help schools address teen violence, today, the Department of Education released a letter that provides schools with much-needed guidance and resources to respond to gender-based and teen dating violence. This is a big step forward, and happened in part because of the advocacy of family members whose daughters have died because of teen violence.
During his 1 is 2 Many announcement last year, Vice President Biden also challenged us to think about cultural change- how do we change the attitudes that allow violence to continue? He emphasized the importance of men acting as role models for young men. It was so encouraging to see young men speaking out against teen dating violence at our event.
As President Obama has said before, it will take more than government to get things done. It will take the efforts of everyone to end teen dating violence, and to create a better future for our young Americans.
Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.