National surveys estimate that one in three youths experiences dating abuse at some point during their teens. Yet only a handful of states have laws enabling underage victims of dating violence to obtain protection orders on equal terms with adults. Break the Cycle, an organization dedicated to ending teen domestic violence, has issued a 2009 Report Card that grades all 50 states according to the strength of their civil domestic violence protection order laws. Four states earned A grades whilst 11 failed, including my own state, Virginia.
Too many states don’t take dating violence seriously. Virginia law, for instance, limits protective orders to cases where the victim and perpetrator have been married or lived together. Obviously those conditions do not apply when teenagers are involved.
Some Ohio lawmakers are promoting a bill that would allow juvenile courts to issue protection orders for minors. It was inspired in part by an Ohio girl named Johanna Orozco, whose ex-boyfriend shot her in the face. She had wanted to get a protection order against him but Ohio courts don’t issue them against minors. Ohio got a failing grade on its report card this year. Hopefully lawmakers across the country will soon wake up to the fact that intimate partner violence affects young people as well as adults, and revise the laws to reflect that sad reality.