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Letter: Fighting Teen Dating Violence

WILTON, Conn. - In February, we celebrate Valentine’s Day, a time to demonstrate our affection for those we love. February is also National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, a time to focus on protecting our young people at a vulnerable time of their lives, when they may need the most help understanding the difference between a loving relationship and an abusive one.

Teen dating violence has reached nearly epidemic proportions in the United States, leading to thousands of preventable injuries and deaths. It’s a problem in all types of communities, with one in three adolescents becoming a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse by a dating partner. Education is essential to stopping abuse before it starts, and when abuse does happen, it’s vital that young people know where to turn for help.

Last year, we passed legislation in the General Assembly that I supported and co-sponsored because it acknowledged the seriousness of teen dating violence. PA 11-152 expanded the definition of domestic violence to include acts committed by persons in a dating relationship with no exceptions for age. This is significant, because it gives dating violence victims, including teens, the same protections as victims of acts of family violence.

The new law requires law enforcement officers to arrest someone whom they have determined has committed an act of family violence. It requires offenders to surrender any firearms they own to law enforcement, eliminating their previous option to transfer them to anyone with a permit, and it allows minors to obtain restraining orders. It also requires law enforcement officers immediately to provide victims with information about domestic violence and victim advocacy services that are available to them.

Young people are perhaps the most effective communicators about issues that affect their peers. I am both impressed and encouraged by the energy and eloquence of the members of local groups like the Center for Youth Leadership at Norwalk’s Brien McMahon High School, the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council at Stamford High School, and the YNet Program of the Greenwich High School and YMCA, as well as the high school students from towns all over Fairfield County who participate in the Domestic Violence Crisis Center’s (DVCC) PeaceWorks program.

These young people are to be commended for speaking out against teen dating violence and for all they are doing to raise awareness of this grave problem and to help their peers understand how to recognize and prevent it.

The DVCC, which is the only domestic violence agency serving Darien, New Canann, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport, and Wilton, offers free and confidential help around the clock to anyone who is involved in or knows of an abusive dating relationship. Visit, or call 888-774-2900 toll free at any time.

If you would like to learn more about efforts to protect young people from dating violence, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or 860 240 8700.

- State Rep. Gail Lavielle

State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents the 143rd district, which includes parts of Wilton and Norwalk. Following redistricting, the district will also include part of Westport.

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