Preventing Teen Dating Abuse At The Source


The recent incidents of domestic abuse in the NFL has placed a spotlight on an issue that has been tolerated for too long and Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) is hoping to help build a support system for New York teenage athletes.

Wills recently had a teenage member of the community come into his office in District 28 with a domestic violence case but the Councilman said that the major barrier was the person did not want to report it.

“The need for help was there, but the willingness to go out and report wasn’t there because of the cultural stigmatism in the community,” Wills said.

After reading several studies, Wills said he decided to create two bills that he introduced to the City Council last week.

Resolution 455 calls for the Dept. of Education to institute certain programs in the Public School Athletic League that will help prevent domestic violence among City students.

Resolution 456 calls for City legislators to implement programs in all public high school and middle school athletic programs in the City and State.

“We want to educate young student athletes about the dangers of intimate partner abuse,” Wills said. “We don’t want to stigmatize our youth with the term violence and we want them to feel comfortable coming forward when abuse happens.”

More than one in 10 City teens reported experiencing physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship within the past year, according to the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

Wills said that the statistics highlight the urgency and necessity of legislation, such as the Intimate Partner Abuse Primary Prevention Act that he introduced.

“If we educate students on how to have healthy dating relationships and encourage them to have non-abusive attitudes we can prevent the whole culture of intimate partner abuse,” Wills said.

Wills also said that if NFL players begin to take action by being positive role models to help teach young athletes the importance of reporting or avoiding abusive relationships, it can have a broader impact.

“If they actually come out to champion positive attitudes towards intimate partners, we can begin to reverse the trend,” he said. “This is not just legislation that’s there because of domestic violence awareness month, it’s because it’s common sense.”

In addition to the support of other council members, Wills is seeking the help of the Human Resources Administration and is looking to expand the funding of the Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program since it is already rooted in the school system.

Another important point that Wills wants to address is providing more support for the LGBT community and young men who may be the victims of domestic violence and don’t report them because of the stigmatism in the community.

According to a 2013 study “Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth” by the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, LGBT youth showed significantly higher rates of all types of dating violence victimization and perpetration experiences, compared to heterosexual youth.

“We have a responsibility to these different segments,” Wills said. “We need to give them a forum where they feel comfortable reporting these incidents.”

Wills is working on lining up advocates and co-sponsors such as the Women’s Issues Committee, the Committee for Public Safety, the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence and Social Services by doing a serious of hearings.

He then plans to get it voted out of Committee and voted on at a full-stated Council meeting. He also plans to advocate to the State Senate and the Assembly so it can become a law across the State once Albany returns to session.

“I believe that this will help a lot of people, especially starting at the middle school level,” he said.

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