By Tiare Rath
Friday, July 8, 2005
A recent study found 57 percent of teen respondents had a friend in an abusive relationship, validating the growing concern about teen dating violence. Now, Congress considers spending $15 million annually on a problem that goes beyond immaturity.
(WOMENSENEWS)-- Eighteen and charming, Brad seduced Marcella quickly with his seemingly mature and gentlemanly behavior. No boy had ever introduced himself to her with a handshake and Marcella, who was just 13, saw it as a sign of great gallantry.
"He must be special," she thought to herself.
Two months later, Brad, by then her boyfriend, brought her to his house.
After they had sex, she sat alone in Brad's bedroom. His friend then entered the room and asked her, "What kind of condom do you want to use?"
Brad had arranged it, he told her.
Marcella--who asked for safety reasons that names be changed for this story--wrapped the sheets around her body so tightly that he couldn't get to her. "I'm not going to have sex with you," she told him.
He left the room and then Brad returned. Angry that she had defied his pimp-like "arrangement," he tried to suffocate Marcella by smothering her face in the mattress and shoved her in a linen closet, continually slamming the door on her back and side.
From there, things got worse. In addition to verbally and physically abusing her, he frequently sexually assaulted her.
Ashamed to tell her friends and afraid to tell her parents, who prohibited her from dating, Marcella kept quiet. Finally, after many attempts to get away from him, he finally, one day, simply disappeared from her life.
That was all seven years ago.
But today, as a 20-year-old mother of two who speaks to girls and teens about abusive relationships, she still feels shaken by the experience.
"I used to be such a confident person; I used to dance and be outgoing," she said. "Even now, I'm still shy."
Congress is considering legislation that could help reduce what the Family Violence Prevention Fund in San Francisco calls a national epidemic of teen dating abuse.
The original Violence Against Women Act of 1994 did not fund services for teens, nor did the renewed 2000 legislation, which nearly doubled the funds for domestic violence services to $3.3 billion over five years.
The 2005 version of the act, introduced with strong bipartisan support in the Senate and the House last month, would allot $3.9 billion over five years to fund civil and law enforcement services related to gender-based violence, including $15 million annually for new initiatives targeting teens.
VAWA II, as the 2005 legislation is called, does not authorize increased funding for many current programs but includes services for teens and children.
"It's always a struggle to convince Congress to give additional funding, especially with high deficits," said Juley Fulcher, director of Break the Cycle in Washington, D.C., who called funding levels for 2005 "a good start to get us on our way."
A 2002 report by researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found the original $1.6 billion VAWA saved $14.8 billion in averted social costs.
The legislation follows the release of a study