Tools for Helping Texas Teens
in a Nutshell
Young women ages 16 to 24 are most likely to be victims of dating violence (US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics). Unfortunately, many of the tools we have to help victims are targeted for adults. To be better prepared to aide young victims, it is important to be sensitive to their unique perspective and to be familiar with the tools available to them.
- Safety Planning and Emergency Shelter: As you probably know, safety planning is one of the most important things to do with a victim, and can be done whether or not they are ready to break up. Many safety plans are written for adults and include language and formatting that may turn off a young person. Try to adapt your form to your teen clients, or use a form specifically for them, like the one at www.women-law.org. Shelter can be another important tool to escape abuse, and since 2003, young people have had the right to access emergency shelter without their parent's consent for 15 days (some exceptions, see Texas Family Code §32.201 AND §32.202). For assistance with Safety Planning, Counseling, or Shelter Referrals, call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-8453 or visit their website at http://loveisrespect.org/.
- Legal Tools: The same legal tools that are available to adults are available for teens: criminal charges and civil protective orders (stay-away orders). However, young victims under age 18 can not file their own 2-year protective order; they need an adult to file for them. That adult does not have to be their parent. It can be anyone over 18 who knows what happened to them and wants to keep them safe. This is called an "On Behalf Of" protective order. Victims can normally contact their local district or county attorney for help obtaining a protective order, but some counties have policies that limit teens' access. For information on how to get a teen dating violence protective order in your area, contact the Texas Advocacy Project's Teen Justice Initiative at (512) 225-9579 or the Web site at www.women-law.org. Victims of any age can also call the toll-free Legal Line at 1-800-374-HOPE for free and confidential legal advice.
- School Options: Texas's new dating violence law, HB 121, includes provisions to help keep victims safe at school. School Stay-Away Agreements function like protective orders except that both the abuser and the victim agree to avoid contact. While restraining the victim's movements may be unappealing, some young people may prefer this option because they can avoid a court proceeding. Sample School Stay-Away Agreement (in the appendix).
For more information about teen dating violence and the law, please contact Bronwyn Blake of the Teen Justice Initiative at Texas Advocacy Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.