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Lt. Gov. Brown urges awareness of teen dating violence

On Feb. 16, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, along with the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), marked Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month by reminding teens, parents and all Marylanders that violence in dating is far too common and that resources for help are available for both victims and witnesses of this violence.

About one in three teens in the United States reports being a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, and nearly half of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors, according to Break the Cycle, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing teen and young adult dating violence.

“Domestic violence knows no boundaries, no limits, no borders, no colors. It affects every family regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, geography or age. And we must remember that this type of violence is not limited to marital relationships,” Lt. Governor Brown. “We can save more lives by continuing to inform teens and parents not only of the prevalence of teen dating violence, but also about the resources available to help identify warning signs and take action.”

Victims of dating violence and those who witness it among their friends or loved ones should be aware of the resources available to help recognize and address dating violence. A wealth of information is available online at teendvmonth.org, loveisrespect.org, ovw.usdoj.gov, or thatsnotcool.com.

“Awareness is key to stopping teen dating violence. In fact, parents are often the last to know about dating violence. In 60% of violent dating relationships the parents of the teens involved had no idea it was happening,” said Lisa Nitsch, Teen Initiative Manager for The House Of Ruth, Maryland. “All adults who interact with teens should consider it their responsibility to talk with young people about healthy relationships. This includes parents, teachers, coaches, and other community members. It is important that teens are getting frequent and consistent messages that violence and controlling behavior have no place in healthy relationships.”

“President Barack Obama has told us that the consequences of dating violence – spanning impaired development to physical harm – pose a threat to the health and well-being of teens across our Nation. And he stresses that it is essential that we come together to break the cycle of violence that burdens too many of our sons and daughters,” said Kristen Mahoney, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention. “We here in the State of Maryland can do that through awareness: by educating ourselves and everyone we know to the dangers of these crimes: not only during the month of February, but everyday throughout the year.”

In addition, DHMH recently developed a document to help health care providers identify and address domestic and dating violence among patients. The document, “Intimate Partner Violence: A Guide for Health Care Providers,” provides useful information and tools to assess patients’ risks. The Guide notes that as little as two minutes, the same amount of time needed to screen for the risk of angina, can make a difference in detecting intimate partner violence.

“Violence in a romantic relationship can have severe physical and emotional consequences for victims,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH. “Health care providers are often in a unique position to recognize signs of intimate partner violence and to do something about it.”

Also, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee Opinion on Intimate Partner Violence released this month notes the important role of OB-GYNs in women’s health, putting them in an ideal position to assess and provide support for women who experience intimate partner violence.

Combating domestic violence is a personal cause for Lt. Governor Brown. In August 2008, his cousin Cathy was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend. The grief of her loss spurred Lt. Governor Brown to redouble efforts to address domestic violence in our state. Building on his experience as a legislator and the perspective provided by this tragedy, Lt. Governor Brown has championed reforms to combat domestic violence.

The Lt. Governor is leading efforts to increase the availability of hospital-based domestic violence screening programs.

Earlier this year, Lt. Governor Brown joined health care representatives, domestic violence advocates, community members and state and local officials to announce the launch of a new Hospital-Based Domestic Violence Program at Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, which will be funded in part by $50,000 in state grant money. The Hagerstown program is Maryland’s sixth hospital-based domestic violence program and the first in Western Maryland.

Since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown administration has worked to reduce violent crime in Maryland by 10 percent each year and reduce violent crimes committed against women and children by 25 percent before 2012. Collaborating with state and local partners, they have reduced violent crime statewide to the lowest rates since 1975, and domestic violence deaths in Maryland have dropped by 41 precent over the past three years.

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