Letters to the Editor

Teens: A different kind of domestic violence offenders

As October ends, I think about all the support Domestic Violence Awareness Month has received nationwide. It is amazing that this issue has gained so much awareness, especially since this topic was considered taboo not too long ago.

Many of the articles, images and resources I’ve seen in the media and on the internet have been geared toward wives abused by husbands or children abused by parents. When most people think of domestic violence, they think of men as the offenders and women and children as the victims. While this frequently is the case, what many don’t know is that there is a different type of domestic violence that also is a huge concern — youths as domestic violence offenders.

Whether the child abuses his or her parents, siblings or other loved ones, this type of domestic violence occurs nationwide. A 2004 FBI National Incident-based Reporting System report found that one out of 12 offenders who came to the attention of law enforcement for domestic assault offenses was younger than 18.

The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, a nonprofit statewide association representing agencies which serve troubled youths and families, focuses on treating aggressive youth behavior that results in violence on household members. In conjunction with the Department of Juvenile Justice, Florida Network agencies offer an alternative to detention through respite services, a program designed to redirect youths and establish healthier and positive relationships with their families. While under our members’ care, youths receive counseling and classes to build skills to properly address emotional trauma.

Our goal is to shed light on domestic violence and, more importantly, on the cycle of violence that plagues families around the state. We encourage parents and families to engage in domestic violence education to combat its ill effects and build stronger families.

Stacy Gromatski, president and CEO, Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, Tallahassee