Over the past 30 years, we've learned that educating the public about domestic and relationship violence can and does make a positive difference. According to a study funded by the Blue Shield of California Foundation, more Californians than ever report that they know someone who has been in a physically abusive relationship, an indication that awareness of the problem has grown.
Studies show that education reduces reported instances of relationship violence, be it spousal abuse or dating violence. But, for the most part, anti-violence efforts have failed to target a key audience. The highest-risk population for domestic violence is teens and young adults 16 to 24, and a New York program targeting that group reduced sexual harassment by as much as 34 percent. But researchers say the optimal time to educate is middle school, and few efforts have been directed at that age group.
Proposed legislation that would have required middle and high schools to create dating abuse policies has failed to advance. Maybe it's time to bring it forward again.