Even though our AmeriCorps member Evan Abramsky completed his term in November, we will be honoring him by posting some blogs he completed during his time with us. Thanks, Evan!
It is estimated that approximately 1.5 million high school students in the US are the victims of intimate partner violence each year. Protections for minors often vary from state to state; unfortunately, Iowa’s laws place greater burdens and restrictions on minors seeking protection than many other states. It has been found that those aged 16 through 24 are at the highest risk of violence in the US, which makes this limitation even more troubling. In fact, according to research conducted by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), it is estimated that one in three adolescents is the victim of physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual violence! According to the Iowa Dept. of Education, there are more than 150,000 students enrolled in Iowa high schools; assuming the NCCD’s estimate is correct, that means more than 50,000 Iowa students are at risk of intimate partner violence, but may lack the opportunity to independently use key tools in protecting themselves.
In states that offer more protections for minors, like California, those as young as 12 years old can independently file for a restraining order. However, in Iowa, a victim must be at least 18 before she can be afforded the same basic protection. Limiting restraining orders to those at least 18 years of age severely limits the options available to Iowa high school students who are the victims of stalking or abuse by an intimate partner.
In addition, in Iowa, if a minor wishes to file a restraining order, they require the permission of a parent or legal guardian. This unnecessarily restricts the number of adults available to aid a minor who is seeking a restraining order, and would be particularly difficult for a minor victimized by a parent or legal guardian. Michigan allows for minors to receive the legal support of “next friends” in applying for a restraining order, a legal term referring to trusted adults, like teachers, counselors, or family friends. Such a program greatly expands the field of potential supports that a victim can seek, and can only serve to benefit
In order to expand the rights of Iowa high school students that are made the victims of intimate partner violence, it’s important that state advocates take action. We should make the effort reach out to our local legislators to petition for the lowering of the restraining order age and the creation of a similar “next friend” system for those left unprotected. There may be as many as 50,000 Iowa high school students that could benefit from reforms to the Iowa legal system. Let’s bring our state up to date.