The words “teen dating” usually bring to mind awkward silences, shy smiles, and high school proms. But for some adolescents and teens, dating also involves behaviors that the court system would recognize as stalking, battering, or worse.
Research into teen dating violence is ongoing—the National Institute of Justice is currently sponsoring a very large study in cooperation with the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. That study, the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence (STRiV), launched in August of 2013. In studies undertaken in 2011 and 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in ten high school students reported being intentionally hit, slapped, or otherwise physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the previous twelve months.
Other studies show higher rates of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse among “tween” daters—adolescents. And, the Urban Institute reported in 2013 that over one-fourth of teens in a relationship experienced some form of “cyber” dating abuse in the previous year (via texting or social networking sites): 84% of those youths also reported psychological abuse, 52% reported physical abuse, and 33% reported sexual coercion.
According to the CDC, teens and adolescents who are involved in unhealthy relationships are at a greater risk for substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and other negative outcomes such as poor academic performance. The victims of dating violence are more likely to be victimized by their intimate partners as they reach their twenties.
States are recognizing this serious problem and dealing with it. Some states’ laws require educational programs on dating violence in middle school and high school, while other states allow schools to provide such programs but do not mandate them.
Advocacy groups have assembled “Toolkits” for educators and health care providers on this problem. On the legal side, a majority of states’ laws, including Indiana’s, allow individuals who are experiencing dating violence to obtain protection orders. Indiana defines “family or household member” to include daters at Ind. Code 34-6-2-44.8 (a)(2). And most states, including Indiana, provide minors with access to protection orders (see Ind. Code 34-26-5-2 (b)).
In Indiana, we have a special petition for protection orders in cases where the protected person is an unemancipated minor (form number PO-0101) and accompanying instructions (form number PO-0103). Of course, many cases of teen dating abuse involve two parties who are unemancipated minors—both the protected person and the respondent.
Do Indiana courts have jurisdiction over cases of that nature? The answer is yes: in fact, the statute specifically addresses this situation at Ind. Code 34-26-5-2 (d), which states that any court of record can handle such a case and issue an ex parte order against the juvenile respondent. Transferring the matter to a juvenile docket is discretionary.
The Indiana Protection Order Deskbook recommends that courts process petitions involving juveniles as they would any other protection order petition, and issue an ex parte order if circumstances warrant. The parties’ ages should not be a reason to unduly delay the processing of the case. Once the case is filed and an ex parte order issued, however, the Deskbook encourages judges to transfer the matter to the court in their county which normally has jurisdiction over juvenile cases. Juvenile courts are generally more adept at handling cases involving allegations of misconduct involving youths.
Access protection order forms online at: courts.in.gov/center/2645.htm.
Access the Protection Order Deskbook online at: courts.in.gov/center/files/center-bb-po-deskbook.pdf.
Families affected by teen dating abuse can visit: www.loveisrespect.org, a partnership between the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle. The number for the National Dating Abuse Helpline is: (866) 331-9474.
While it may be tempting to shield such cases from the public, keep in mind that the caption of a PO case is a public record under Administrative Rule 9, except when it involves the juvenile victim of a sex crime (in which case the person’s initials are given—see Admin. R. 9 (g)(1)(e)).
A PO case is a public record, except for that part of the file that appears on green paper (commonly known as the Confidential Form). But according to Ind. Code 31-39-1-2, most juvenile court records are confidential, and under the provisions of Ind. Code 31-32-6, a juvenile court may close the proceedings. For these reasons, it may be beneficial to transfer the PO case to a juvenile court in order to have the hearing occur in a more controlled setting. Regardless of the venue of adjudication, a juvenile respondent’s name is still a public record in the online Protective Order Registry.
No matter how your county deals with protection order cases involving juveniles, bear in mind that teen dating abuse is a serious problem. When the parties turn to the court system for help with this problem, we should be cognizant of the real risks inherent in these cases—as well as the real opportunities to make a difference in the parties’ lives—both immediately and long-term.
For additional information about this article, please contact Ruth D. Reichard, at (317) 233-0784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.