Governor And Attorney General Kick Off National Teen Dating Violence Awareness And Prevention Week

February 6, 2006

Today State officials including Governor John Baldacci, Attorney General Steve Rowe and Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara highlighted the issue of teen dating violence at a student forum at Winthrop High School. This was just one of many events going on in high schools throughout Maine during National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Week. Teen dating violence is a serious issue that affects many students in our schools. One in four dating relationships during high school are verbally, emotionally, physically and/or sexually abusive. Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls have had boyfriends threaten violence or self-harm when presented with a break-up.

This week, in coordination with domestic violence and sexual assault school based educators, 11 high schools throughout Maine are using a new toolkit developed by the American Bar Association (ABA) to address issues of teen dating. The toolkits and school based educators will help school officials actively engage youth in discussions about what healthy relationships are and what they are not.

By attending the forum at Winthrop High School, Maine's top officials hope to emphasize how important it is for adults to discuss this issue with young people. Governor John E. Baldacci said, "Teen dating violence is an issue that should concern every parent, educator, and community. We have a responsibility as state leaders and mentors to our young people to work with them in addressing the complex and difficult issues surrounding teenage relationship abuse."

"Young people need to learn in an environment free of fear and intimidation," said Attorney General Steve Rowe. "Fear and intimidation have no place in school or in dating relationships. Real friends do not put others down by calling them stupid or worthless. That's not friendship; it's abuse." Rowe urged young men in particular to break the cycle of violence by treating their dating partners with respect and rejecting the macho, possessive stereotypes of the past.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael P. Cantara told the students, "No one has the right to physically, sexually or emotionally harm you. You have the power to set boundaries and to maintain control over your own well being. If you feel someone has crossed the line, seek help from your parents, teachers and others because help is always available."

Students attending the forum saw part of a video produced by the ABA and heard from Civil Rights Team members and Peer Helpers about relationship "red flags." While the focus was on trying to help teens think about what constitutes a healthy relationship, speakers stressed that help is available for teens who are experiencing abuse. Students received a wallet sized card that contains hotline numbers where they can find help.

The member agencies of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault provide free, comprehensive school based education about teen dating violence as well as victim services to youth and their parents. A listing of all member agencies of both coalitions is attached.

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week

Participating Schools

The American Bar Association has produced a Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Toolkit and has made 15 toolkits available to each state. 11 of these toolkits have been distributed to schools throughout Maine who will be using them in cooperation with local domestic violence and sexual assault school based educators. Please contact the designated person at the listed high school to find out how the Toolkit will be utilized by that school.

Caribou High School, Caribou
Allison Ladner

Penquis Valley High School, Milo
Phil Brown

Central Aroostook High School, Mars Hill
Sue Finland

Scarborough High School, Scarborough
Patricia Conant

Ellsworth High School, Ellsworth
Gil Jameson
207-667-4722 ext.3355

Thornton Academy, Saco
Caron Sabo

Georges Valley High School, Thomaston
Martha Brown
207-354-2503 ext. 205

Wells High School, Wells
Nancy Cotty
207-646-7011 ext. 2218

John Bapst High School, Bangor
Colleen Grover

Winthrop High School, Winthrop
Eric Turner

Leavitt High School, Turner
Sarah Duchette

While there were only a limited number of Toolkits to distribute throughout the State, State officials have notified all high schools about National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week and have encouraged schools to work with domestic violence and sexual assault school based educators in their area to address this important topic with their students.