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Georgia domestic abuse conference focuses on teen violence

Last week, over 200 Georgia victim advocates, law enforcement officials, medical professionals, family law attorneys, and other social service providers attended the fifth annual Domestic Violence Conference in Dalton, Georgia. While the goal of the conference was to coordinate an overall response to the growing number of reports of domestic violence throughout Georgia, attendees focused on the growing epidemic of teen dating violence in the state.

Recently, we wrote about the fact that the state of Georgia had the sixth-highest rate of women murdered by men in domestic violence homicides. This statistic fueled the conference, as attendees worked to develop a coordinated community response to domestic violence in order to "improve outcomes for victims of intimate partner violence."

Domestic violence in all forms is on the rise in Georgia. Police data states that domestic violence calls have been on the rise as the economy has declined, going from 54,010 calls in 2006 to 61,464 calls in 2007, and further increasing to 65,485 calls in 2010.

According to Dr. Sheryl Heron, an emergency room physician who gave the keynote address, the Internet is playing an increasingly significant role in domestic violence in Georgia."One-fourth of stalking victims report cyberstalking by emails and texts," she said. That can quickly escalate to physical violence and even death.

This epidemic of cyberstalking is even more relevant to teenage victims of dating violence. Often, Dr. Heron said, teens are simply not educated on safe and healthy relationships and how to remove themselves from a dangerous or harmful situation. As a result, Start Strong Atlanta reports that one in six Georgia high school students has been slapped, hit, or physically hurt by their significant other in the past year. Conference attendees hope to spread education and awareness to young people in order to reduce this number.

Source: Dalton Daily Citizen, "'We have work to do'; Conference addresses domestic violence and responses," Mark Millican, Oct. 24, 2011

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