Valentine’s Day may be a time to celebrate loving relationships, but it’s also a good time to talk about preventing violent or otherwise unhealthy relationships, says U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom in Wichita.
“On this Valentine’s Day, I encourage everybody, especially parents, to look beyond the roses and chocolate-filled hearts that your children may have exchanged and provide an environment to talk about healthy, violence-free relationships,” Grissom said. He released his statement on Wednesday, just in time for Valentine’s Day but also one day after the U.S. Senate voted 78-22 to reinstate the Violence Against Women Act. The U.S. Department of Justice uses some funds from VAWA to help children exposed to violence or abuse.
Grissom suggest Valentine’s Day might be a good time for parents to check in with their teenagers who may be involved in romantic relationships. “If you are a parent of a teenager, do you know the names and faces of three of their friends? Chances are, one of them – maybe your own son or daughter – will be in an abusive relationship,” he said.
Grissom went on to note that teen dating violence is often unreported, and that February has been designated as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
“Not only do teens often lack the experience to navigate romantic relationships, they may also be unable to voice their feelings or communicate when emotional situations take a turn for the worse,” he said. “Even more frightening is that if adolescents find the courage to tell their friends about being in an abusive relationship, statistics show that more times than not, their friends won’t know what to do to get them help.”
While urging adults to teach and model healthy relationships, Grissom said that intervention and prevention are key elements to stopping the cycle of abuse. “Studies show that children who are victimized or witness violence may carry this experience with them to the playground, classroom and later to teen relationships and ultimately adult intimate partner violence,” he added.
“Working to end violence in families and communities remains one of the District of Kansas’ highest priorities,” Grissom said. “Every year, millions of children and adolescents across the United States are victimized and exposed to violence in their homes and communities, and often suffer severe long-term emotional and physical consequences. When these problems remain unaddressed, children are at higher risk for school failure, substance abuse, repeat victimization, and, perhaps, most disturbingly, perpetrating violent behavior later in their own lives. It is our responsibility to address this serious issue and protect our children.”
After Tuesday’s vote reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, Kansas Democratic Party’s Chair Joan Wagnon released a statement criticizing the 22 Republican males who voted against it, including Kansas Senator Pat Roberts. “VAWA programs save lives, help put abusers behind bars, and stop the cycle of violence,” Wagnon said. “It’s unconscionable and I am deeply saddened that Sen. Roberts would put partisan politics before victims’ safety.