Stop Abuse for Every Teen (SAFE) Act

Teen dating violence is pervasive and results in poor physical and mental health, lower academic achievement, truancy and school drop-out. An effective prevention program will decrease these poor academic factors and increase student health, safety and academic achievement by meeting youth where they are — in schools. A few facts:
Dating Violence is the Rule – Not the Exception
 About 72% of 8th and 9th graders report “dating”
 1 in 4 adolescents reports emotional, physical, or sexual violence each year
 1 in 10 adolescents reports being a victim of physical dating violence
 1 in 4 teens in a relationship say they have been called names, harassed or put down by their partner through cell phones and texting
 A substantial number of teen dating violence incidents occur in school buildings and on school grounds
Students Can’t Learn if they Don’t Feel Safe
 The pervasiveness of abusive behaviors occurring on school campuses affects the overall school climate and districts students from their focus on learning
 Students who experienced physical and/or sexual violence had lower grades; approximately 20% of these students had mostly D’s/F’s and only 5-6% had mostly A’s
 Witnessing violence has been associated with decreased school attendance and academic performance
Dating Violence Results in Long-term Negative Health Consequences
• Teen victims of physical dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors (taking diet pills or laxatives and vomiting to lose weight), engage in risky sexual behaviors, and attempt or consider suicide
 Girls are up to 6 times more likely to become pregnant and more than 2 times as likely to report a sexually transmitted disease
 Physically abused teens are 3 times more likely than non-abused peers to experience violence during college
 Abusive behaviors learned in adolescence can escalate into adulthood
For over 15 years, domestic violence and sexual assault agencies have provided a range of teen dating violence prevention education programs in schools using federal and state domestic violence and sexual assault funds and private grants. Programs have been delivered during a range of classes, after-school programs, athletic and other extra-curricular activities and through school climate improvement activities. However, we are learning that teen dating violence and bullying, and other problem behaviors including substance abuse and weapon carrying, are occurring together in teens. As a result, we need to enable schools to use federal school violence prevention funding to deliver teen dating violence prevention education programs as part of a comprehensive approach to school safety.
More and more states have passed or are considering teen dating violence bills. To date, at least 15 states have passed laws (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington) and many more, such as California and Maryland, are considering legislation. Most of the state bills are an unfunded mandate on schools to teach about teen dating violence, train school personnel, and to incorporate response mechanisms into their school policies.
Stop Abuse for Every Teen Act or SAFE Teen Act
As Congress considers reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, advocates and concerned parents are proposing a marker bill entitled “Stop Abuse for Every Teen Act” or the “SAFE Teen Act.” This bill would:
• Expressly authorize schools to use existing grant funding for teen dating violence prevention
• Highlight teen dating violence prevention as part of the comprehensive, community prevention program, Safe Schools, Healthy Students, that already funds prevention activities
• Support better teen dating violence data to understand the scope of the problem as well as having a means of measuring the impact of prevention programs and policies
• Support promising practices to further replicate, refine and test prevention models
• This is not a mandated program and the cost is included in existing grant streams
To cosponsor the SAFE Teen Act, please contact Steffany Stern in Rep. Gwen Moore’s office at Steffany.stern@mail.house.gov or 202-225-4572. For questions, please contact Sally Schaeffer with Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, at sschaeffer@futureswithoutviolence.org or Miri Cypers with Jewish Women International at mcypers@jwi.org or 202-464-4804.