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Teen Violence: Effects Obvious, Causes Complex

Teen dating violence is at ‘epidemic levels’ and the courts may be flawed when dealing with offenders and victims, advocates said Thursday.

The forum for the media on juveniles, justice, crime and violence was at Columbia College Chicago, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., and held by the Community media Workshop.

teens and abuse

“Prosecution is the least effective way to handle teen sexual violence,” said Elizabeth Clarke, president of Juvenile Justice Initiatives.

Clarke said that institutions like colleges do not report most sexual violence.

“They don’t report it in large part because, as a society, our response is completely out of proportion; it’s not individualized, it’s not proportionate and often times it’s not fair and it’s not effective,” Clarke said.

Violence among teens is the same as violence anywhere else. But the contributing factors can differ from those of adults. The juvenile system treats the crime but it might not treat the cause.

Elena Quintana, executive director of the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, said there are a number of things that contribute to teen violence. She said teens don’t sprout out of the ground and start beating each other, traumatic experience and abuse are things that may lead to acting out in such a way.

“More structures [schools] need to be trauma informed,” said Quintana. “It is a symptom of a lot of other broke down things.”

About 50 percent of teens know another teen that has been abused in a relationship said Tom Schreiner, coordinating counselor at A Safe Place and Domestic Violence Shelter.

Schreiner said that it is very difficult to identify a clear cause and effect for domestic violence or sexual assault. Some people have long standing or trans-generational patterns, their parents may have been in abusive relationships, they may have grown up in abusive relationships it-all depends.

Victims can experience a variety of accompanying health issues that can begin with depression and lead to psycho-sematic symptoms such as, high blood pressure, ulcers and many other issues all the way to migraines said Schreiner.

Quintana said with the flood of visual information from the Internet some young people may think the violence they see is normal or expected.

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