Teen dating violence: Fulton County seeks grant to stop deadly trend

By David Pendered

Fulton County wants to find more effective ways to combat teen dating violence.

The county’s Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to apply for a $1.75 million grant to address the problem. The phenomenon has become so prevalent that it’s been targeted by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

Paul Howard, Fulton County district attorney

Paul Howard, Fulton County district attorney

“We are happy to work with the Fulton County commission, and any other entities that are focused on eradicating this problem, as we continue to see incidents of young people who are injured – or killed – as a result of dating violence,” Howard said Wednesday.

The county will apply for the grant from Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC program is titled: “Dating Matters: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships.” The application deadline is Thursday.

Dr. Patrice Harris, director of Fulton’s health department, said the problem of teen dating violence is widespread.

One in six Georgia teens reports being a victim of abuse by a dating partner, she said. Fulton County figures are not available, Harris said.

And, Harris said, the violence breaks a common misperception about gender.

Dr. Patrice Harris, Fulton County health director

Dr. Patrice Harris, Fulton County health director

“We may have the stereotype that it involves more boys [as the aggressors], but girls just as often are the ones, Harris said.

The CDC defines abuse as physical, emotional or sexual in nature.

A CDC survey shows that, nationwide, boys are victims at a rate slightly higher than girls – 8.9 percent for boys and 8.8 percent for girls.  In the South, girls are victims at a higher rate than boys – 9.3 percent for boys and 9.9 percent for girls, according to a report dated 2006, the latest available.

CDC chart on teen dating violence

Harris said the county would set up programs at 11 schools to test the effectiveness of two approaches already in use in some schools. These programs teach youngsters ways to stop the violence and deny it from being accepted behavior.

In one approach to be tested, half the schools would use the Safe Date program only with pupils. In the other half of schools, the Safe Date program would be delivered and care-givers would be brought in to work with the children, Harris said.

“We’ll see which strategy gives the better outcome,” Harris said.

Safe Dates is a curriculum that focuses on children ranging from 11 years to 14 years. The county will continue to work with partners that include the Jane Fonda Center, at Emory University, and Morehouse School of Medicine, according to papers provided to commissioners.

Howard, the district attorney, coordinated a summit in 2008 on the topic of teen dating violence. At the time, the county was reeling from headline-grabbing murder cases that involved young women in abusive relationships:

  • Clara Riddles, 22, shot dead at CNN Center by her 39-year-old ex-boyfriend;
  • Kendra Mason, 17, and her co-worker Damien Harris, shot to death at Greenbriar Mall by a 25-year-old man Mason dated briefly;
  • An Atlanta school girl who was shot to death by her 15-year-old on-again/off-again abusive boyfriend.

The summit was presented in February at Spelman College and Georgia Tech. It culminated with a town hall meeting at Morehouse College, where Dr. Joseph Lowery urged young men to “Man Up!”

Harris hopes the county can bolster the message of non-violence among dating teams if it wins the grant.

“Because of our ability to increase our capacity, we will bring more awareness of the problem and a reduction in teen violence,” Harris said.

The county should know soon if it is selected. The grant begins July 15 and ends July 15, 2016, according to the county.

CDC teen dating violence

The CDC provides this caption for a stock photo: Dating violence can happen to any teen, anytime, anywhere. But it doesn't have to happen at all. Learn how to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships with CDC's online resources.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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