Web offers help to teens in event of dating violence
By DAVID SALISBURY
Capital News Service
LANSING – The state has launched a Web site for teenage victims of sexual assault that consolidates resources across Michigan’s 83 counties.
The Teen Dating Violence site covers teenager’s dating rights, definitions of stalking and stories of victims. It also includes a link to the state resource directory and phone numbers for national hotlines and crisis centers.
The YWCA West Michigan Center in Grand Rapids is one such link for women and girls in need of assistance, providing rape exams, forensics and support counseling.
President Carla Blinkhorn said Web sites like these are essential, not only to help victims, but also to prevent future victims.
Blinkhorn said it is important to provide information to girls from the age of 11 on, adding that 70 percent of assaulted victims at her center are under 24.
“Young people use the Web, so that’s where we need to reach them,” she said.
The site includes information for friends of victims about how to respond appropriately to news of a sexual assault.
“Teenagers typically talk to their friends first and don’t go to teachers or parents when they’re being violated,” said Sarah Heuser, prevention and education director of the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence in Okemos.
“One of the main goals for the site is to teach fellow teens how to properly aid one another in times like these,” she said.
The Department of Human Services launched the site in October because it’s the state’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Gov. Jennifer Granholm said the designation is intended to promote organizations and individuals who provide advocacy efforts and services.
Heuser said, “Having a month dedicated to the issue is important because it increases opportunities to reach women in need.”
The site includes definitions of domestic crimes and physical, emotional and psychological abuse.
Heuser said that by arming young people with background information and preventative measures, it could also reduce sexual abuse of adults.
The FBI’s 2005 Uniform Crime Report indicates that in the 1,342 known “intimate partner homicides” in the nation, 79 percent of the victims were female.
In 2005, there were 58 intimate partner homicides and more than 70,000 cases of domestic violence, according to a State Police report.
“Statistics of domestic violence in Michigan are consistent with national numbers,” said Colleen Simon, communications director for the Michigan coalition.
“When people know that help is available, they’re more likely to seek help and perhaps some of those numbers will go down,” she said.
EVE Inc. is another one of the state’s organizations listed on the new Web site.
Located in Lansing, it’s one of Ingham County’s main domestic violence shelters and assistance providers. Last year, 417 women and children found shelter and 932 people called its crisis line.
“Sometimes people in need don’t know where to find help,” said Jillian Pastoor, communications coordinator for EVE. “Sites like these are essential to women who are looking for new options.”
EVE helps women and children of all ages and financial brackets with medical and financial needs, legal aid, housing and transportation services, counseling and personal protection programs.
“We’re not the only such organization.” Pastoor said. “We want women to know that there is help and that no one needs to put up with unhealthy situations.”
The Teen Dating Violence site is www.michigan.gov/datingviolence. For more information on EVE Inc., go to www.eveinc.org or call its hotline at (517) 372-5572. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 799-SAFE.
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© 2007, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism