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October is for Domestic Violence Awareness Month PDF Print
Thursday, 16 October 2014 13:38

Yesterday, LAYC with many community partners* hosted an event in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event Speak up, Speak out: Mobilizing Youth for Love and Respect for teens and young adults highlighted the impact of domestic violence among teens. Despite tornado warnings and lots of rain, it warmed my heart to see over 100 youth participate in the day's events. They all gathered together, male and female, gay and straight, and Latino, African American, and multi-racial youth.

I often think about the issues our young people have to deal with like unemployment and homelessness. But honestly, I don't spend enough time thinking about teen dating violence and domestic violence and its impact on the lives of our youth and young adult couples.

Here are some startling statistics** that note the urgency of the situation for young teens and young adults in our country today.

  • Teens who suffer dating abuse are subject to long-term consequences like alcoholism, eating disorders, promiscuity, thoughts of suicide, and violent behavior.
  • 33% of adolescents in America are victim to sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional dating abuse.
  • In the U.S., 25% of high school girls have been abused physically or sexually. Teen girls who are abused this way are 6 times more likely to become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • Females between the ages of 16 and 24 are roughly 3 times more likely than the rest of the population to be abused by an intimate partner.
  • Teens who have been abused hesitate to seek help because they do not want to expose themselves or are unaware of the laws surrounding domestic violence.

I know that many LAYC youth represent one or more of these alarming statistics. And yet, I know that the youth who walk through LAYC's doors are so much more than a statistic, yet their lives are framed against these challenges. They know that we are here to help them out of this situation, but I know that not every youth has a place like LAYC in their lives.

I am proud of our staff and our colleagues who daily highlight the urgency of this situation. I am proud of our young people who came to our event yesterday to speak out so they, their mothers, or their friends do not become a statistic. I am proud of the young men who participated yesterday in support of their girlfriends, sisters, and classmates. These young people are not silent bystanders. Their awareness, their actions, their advocacy, their speaking out, and their voice can and will change the world! Join me and SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUT so that not one more person will fall victim to these statistics.

* DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, Break the Cycle, Safe Spaces DC, WK Foundation, DC Rape and Crisis Center.

**For more facts with sources: https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-teen-dating-violence

Happy 25th Anniversary Kids Count! PDF Print
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:34

I remember the first KIDS COUNT document that was released 25 years ago! The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) was ahead of the times, a pioneer in understanding the importance of data collection and analysis. I remember those early years when community and youth advocates would meet with influential policymakers to tell their stories. Their response was that it was great to hear the stories, but where was the data?

Lack of data often became code for not doing anything, for burying one's head in the sand regarding the issues and the challenges confronting us, and more importantly, the children and families we represent. Too often lack of data just led to more meetings, perhaps a task force, and then too often inaction.

But AECF understood the importance and power of data. Once KIDS COUNT hit our nation, as youth advocates walked onto Capitol Hill and their state representatives' offices, they walked in with their copy of KIDS COUNT in hand. Finally, we had the data that we needed to confront our daily reality with greater confidence and rigor. It was clear that data mattered.

As the years went on, KIDS COUNT rose to a new level of sophistication. Much more than numbers and statistics combined with powerful stories, the data became the voice of our nation's children living in fragile and distressed communities. Policymakers could no longer bury their heads in the sand and say show me the numbers.

Today, in many circles, being data-driven is the expectation. Not only does it matter, you must have it. All collective impact models are driven against baseline data. High performing organizations must use data to drive better and improved outcomes for their clients.

Practitioners and advocates have integrated words like 'metrics' and 'return on investment' into their vocabulary. And more recently, without data there would be no Social Impact Fund or Pay for Success model, the newest idea to tackle intense social problems in our country.

Yet, as I note this I also must ask: Have our data collection efforts and sophistication helped close the wealth gap? Have these efforts lessened ethnic disparities in access to opportunities? While in some areas our nation is stronger, we have also witnessed the retrenching of some of our success. In too many areas, we see that the needle has barely moved in a positive direction, and in some cases we have lost ground.

What is needed now, as we move forward in the future are mechanisms to communicate the meaning and the power of what we have counted. KIDS COUNT data, analysis, and advocacy are what we need to change and influence policy in every neighborhood, city, county, state and our nation. As our work gives voice to our nation's voiceless children, and as our collective voices rise, the dialog will change. We must keep our eyes on the prize as we influence our nation's attitudes and change policies in support of our deserving families and youth. The solution is not just one program or one policy, but big change.

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