Violence Among Girls Spurs More To Seek Help

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A state law enacted last year was originally meant to protect teenagers in destructive dating relationships.

One in three teenage girls will be involved in a violent dating relationship, said Karen Days, president of the Family Violence Coalition at Nationwide Children's Hospital. So Ohio lawmakers wanted them to be able to get civil-protection orders.

But some central Ohio counties are seeing more cases of girls who want protection from each other after a bullying provision was added to the law — an addition that some judges say was unnecessary.
"There are already laws in place to protect juveniles' being bullied," said Franklin County Juvenile Court Judge Dana S. Preisse. "This is not what the law was originally intended to do."
The law allows courts to issue civil-protection orders that remain in effect until the child's 19th birthday. Before the law took effect in June last year, only adults older than 18 could get a protection order.
From January through August this year, the Franklin County Juvenile Court granted 71 orders, 25 of which were for girl-against-girl disputes, compared with 13 in which girls filed against boys.
"We don't grant these offenses lightly," Preisse said. "We have to find immediate and present danger or threat of harm."
That can include assault, stalking or menacing.
"It works for (when) an abusive, manipulative boy is treating a girl in that way, but (for bullying and menacing) they can file for juvenile delinquency," Preisse said.
A juvenile-delinquency case is filed with the county prosecutor rather than the court, and the people involved go through a mediation program, she said.
She prefers that because it provides an opportunity to work out their problems rather than having it immediately become a court record.
Both orders issued by Union County and seven of the 16 in Licking County since June 2010 have been for girl-vs.-girl fights.
David Edelblute, administrator for the Licking County Probate-Juvenile Court, agrees that the law is not being used for its intended purpose.
"It's a good tool to have, and, frankly, bullying is an issue within the community," Edelblute said. "But (Licking County) has a mediation team that works with schools, and we try to get to the bullying issue before this is necessary."
Two juvenile civil-protection orders have been issued by the Madison County Juvenile Court since the law went into effect, and both have been a girl filing against a boy, said Glenn Hamilton, the court's judge.
Although the court hasn't dealt with bullying yet, Hamilton said such problems could definitely be handled with a delinquency case.
"Before these CPOs, you could put on a no-contact order without the protection order," Hamilton said.
Even in the counties where teenage girls are filing against boys, there are only a small number, which is indicative of the lack of awareness of the danger of a tumultuous relationship, said Days, of the Violence Coalition.
"(Girls are) more apt to file on a stranger than if they are in a relationship with someone," she said. "Young women want to stay in their relationships because they don't know the difference."
Alex Stuckey is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.