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Shared Blog: A Judge's View on Cases Involving Teen Dating Violence

Shared from the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody.

8 Things Every Judge Should Know About Teen Dating Violence

One of the most important duties for any court system is to ensure that youth in the community are protected. As the former presiding judge of the Milwaukee Children’s Court, Milwaukee County Domestic Violence Courts, Milwaukee County Family Court and now the Presiding Judge of the Milwaukee County Probate Court, I have seen many teen survivors of dating violence, including all genders and sexual orientations and every ethnic background imaginable.  It was, and is, very sad to me that while these young people are supposed to be focusing on the challenges of adolescence, they were instead grappling with the violence caused by their partners.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) is highlighting the importance of youth victimized through dating violence. As a judge and a parent, it’s difficult for me to imagine that 1 in 3 girls that I saw in my court were likely to be physically, emotionally, or verbally abused by an intimate partner.  That number is too high for any community. Worse, girls and young women from the ages of 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average.

One of the hardest tasks I have faced is making decisions in cases that involve victimized youth. I know that judges around the country (many of whom are parents) also are deeply concerned about making the right decision in cases that involve teen survivors. These are tough issues for any judge to handle alone. That is why the NCJFCJ and I put together this article entitled “8 Things Every Judge Should Know About Teen Dating Violence.” It is certainly not everything you may need to know, but it’s a start. We hope you find this blog helpful. If you are interested in what you read and want to learn more, please feel free to reach out.

Hon. Marshall Murray
Presiding Judge, Milwaukee County Probate Court
Member, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Like adult survivors, supporting youth survivors’ agency and self-determination is important. However, teens are not “young adults” in any sense of the word. In fact, that term is a misconception that harkens back to well before the 19th century when children were thought of as tiny adults in children’s clothing. Teens and adolescents are developmentally and emotionally unique. As eloquently put by the National Institute of Mental Health “... the brain does not begin to resemble that of an adult until the early 20s ... [t]he parts of the brain responsible for more ‘top-down’ control, controlling impulses, and planning ahead – the hallmarks of adult behavior – are among the last to mature

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