The 11th annual Domestic Violence Breakfast and Briefing, held this morning at the Hall County Government Center, featured a panel discussion on the teen dating violence crisis and how adults can respond.
In addition, Deputy Matthew Norman of the Hall County Sherriff’s Office was recognized as Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard lauded Norman for his compassionate, measured response to a tense domestic violence incident in July.
“In my 14 years of experience in law enforcement, some things you can teach folks, some things you can’t,” said Sgt. Jason Bailes as he presented Norman with the award. “You are a natural … you are a definite asset.”
The panel, moderated by Gateway Domestic Violence Center Executive Director Jessica Butler, included April Byrne, Community Involvement & Volunteer Coordinator at Project Safe in Athens, Kathy Oxford, counselor at North Hall High School, Taylor Tabb, Fatality Review Project Coordinator at the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Woodard.
Among the startling statistics about teen dating violence the panel addressed:
- 1 in 3 young people will be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, and of those only a third seek help
- Roughly 1.5 million high school boys and girls in the U.S. admit to being intentionally hit or physically harmed in the last year by someone with whom they are romantically involved
- Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average
- When it comes to parents, 81% believe teen dating violence is not an issue or say they don’t know if it’s an issue
- Half of the victims in fatal domestic violence cases were 13 to 24 years old when they began the relationship with the person who ultimately killed them
Byrne talked about the positive response to Project Safe’s “Breaking Silence” initiative, particularly its Teen Texting Line, which is available to teens in Hall County. She encouraged parents to be good role models for what healthy relationships look like and encouraged them to talk to children, both girls and boys.
“I need Hall County to understand that domestic violence is note a private matter,” Woodard said, stressing the need to teach young people signs of unhealthy relationships. “(Domestic violence) doesn’t start magically as adults.”
“At Gateway, each day we witness the pain that domestic violence causes and the havoc it wreaks on the lives of victims and their families. Unfortunately we are seeing more and more teenage victims,” Butler said. “Our community has done so much to prevent and help end domestic violence in our county, but there’s so much more work to be done. Today’s discussion makes it clear that intervention must begin earlier.”
Paula Land, Directory of Security at Brenau University, welcomed those in attendance and reflected on her experience with victims of domestic violence. One of the university students who made an impact on Land talked about the emotional and physical abuse she and her mother endured at the hands of her stepfather years earlier.
“Every officer makes a difference,” she said, addressing the large contingent of law enforcement in the room. “I stand here today and thank each and every one of you.”
The Domestic Violence Breakfast and Briefing was presented by the Hall County Domestic Violence Task Force. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.