In a 2019 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 12 high school students experienced sexual dating violence, and about one in 12 experienced physical dating violence.
The study reported that female students experienced higher rates of physical and sexual dating violence than male students, and student members of the LGBTQ+ community experienced higher rates of physical and sexual dating violence compared to students who identified as heterosexual.
The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence is a statewide coalition dedicated to deepening the process of healing by identifying and addressing the underlying and contributing factors of domestic violence through public policy, according to the organization's website, and the partnership hosted its Orange Day of Action on Tuesday, where representatives from several organizations joined on the west steps of the state Capitol calling on the Legislature to do more to curb domestic and sexual violence.
Existing legislation and lobbying efforts
Before the event, the coalition endorsed Senate Resolution 13, written by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, declaring February 2023 Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
Her office said the resolution, co-sponsored by 15 other state legislators, is complementary to the California Healthy Youth Act, a law adopted in 2016 aimed at teaching teens a comprehensive sexual education.
Tuesday's event also saw Assembly members Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Blanca Rubio and Robert Rivas in attendance.
On Jan. 25, the coalition wrote a letter to state leaders requesting $50 million to prevent and end cycles of domestic and sexual violence. In the letter, it said California would be investing the money in providing spaces where survivors can access culturally-specific healing and stabilizing funding for domestic and sexual violence organizations by eliminating reliance on fees.
Teens talk of healing
Ashton Molendyk is a youth leader with One Love, a nonprofit organization with the goal of ending relationship abuse. One of the speakers at the Capitol rally, she said that One Love helped her realize she can end unhealthy relationships.
"When I was in ninth grade, I had a friend who would guilt me into not hanging out with other people," Molendyk said. "I didn't have relationship health education at my school, so I realized that I needed to change, right?"
Representatives from other organizations at the event included Ana Paula Campos from Laura's House, a domestic violence shelter based in south Orange County.
Campos said she is a direct survivor of relationship abuse which can take psychological, physical and mental forms, and abusers are often possessive or manipulative. She said she shares her experience publicly because people see and hear numbers, but the story is more meaningful when it's humanized and they're "seeing that the person right there in front of them is real."
"My mental health is so much better," she said. "I go out with friends. I'm way happier. I started going to the gym. I find love within myself. I eat better. I've also bettered my relationships and connections with my family and friends and really gone back to my happy self that I was before."