Good morning. Thank you for joining us, both in person and via livestream, for this important event marking Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. I am grateful to MCSR and Jewish Women International for partnering with us to convene today’s program, and for their work in support of young people leading safe and violence-free lives. And thank you to Allison Randall and her team at the Office on Violence Against Women (or OVW) for organizing today’s event and leading the Justice Department’s work in this space.
In a recent study, one in eight U.S. high school students reported experiencing dating violence. Research shows that transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual and nonbinary youths are victimized at the highest rates, meaning that teen dating violence disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable young people in our country. It is the job of adults and those of us in the justice system to do everything we can to protect these teens and guide them toward healthy relationships.
Growing up in the world today comes with complex challenges and difficulties. COVID-19 caused unprecedented disruptions in young people’s lives. The internet, for all its benefits, brings a host of dangers that most of us who are adults now have little frame of reference for understanding. Those of us who grew up before smartphones sometimes draw a mental distinction between “online” interaction and “real life,” yet this distinction is increasingly obsolete. Social media connects us, but it also provides another mechanism for abuse and harassment. For better and for worse, the world is much wider and more accessible to this generation than ever before.
That’s why last summer, the White House launched a task force to combat online harassment and abuse. OVW and several other Justice Department components are key contributors to that effort. I am proud that the Justice Department and the federal government as a whole are working to understand and address these complex problems.
One example of the Justice Department’s work is the Consolidated Youth and Engaging Men grant program, which OVW oversees. That program supports projects across the nation to keep young people safe by providing the necessary tools to identify red flags in budding relationships and foster the leadership of teens in preventing violence.
As a mother of two boys – one teenager and one not far behind – I see on a personal level the world kids today face. I try to impart to them the skills and empathy to navigate it – and, importantly, I listen. It is young people who are best equipped to understand their lived realities, and it is they who must lead. That is why in today’s program we are centering the voices of youth leaders.
Rather than speaking for the Justice Department, as speakers at events like this often do, our young guests are here to speak to us. I am excited to hear what they have to say.