Highlights: Press Release 3/24/09

Break the Cycle Releases

“2009 State-by-State Teen Dating Violence Report Card”

Nearly Half of States Fail to Make a Passing Grade in Protecting
Victims of Teen Dating Abuse, Receiving a D Grade or Below

Los Angeles, CA (March 24, 2009) – Break the Cycle, the nation’s leading nonprofit teen dating violence prevention organization, today announces the results of their “2009 State-by-State Teen Dating Violence Report Card” that grades each state’s laws on their ability to protect victims of teen dating violence seeking protection orders against their abusers.

As the leading voice for teens on the issue of dating violence, Break the Cycle offers education prevention and intervention programs for teens, advocates for laws and policies to better protect the rights and promote the health of teens nationwide and, in 2007, the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women assigned Break the Cycle to be the first national Teen Dating Violence resource and training center to help communities nationwide effectively address teen dating violence.

Victims of teen dating abuse face overwhelming obstacles to getting help because, as minors, it is often difficult for them to move from their home, change their school or gain access to basic securities like money, shelter and transportation. Exacerbating the barriers is the fact that few states recognize teens as victims of domestic abuse and therefore do not allow them to take out restraining orders. In fact, teens experience abuse at extremely high rates and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 exhibit the highest rates of abuse – above any other age group.

As co-chairs of the national task force that drafted the Violence Against Women Act of 2005, and the authors of three federal grant programs that address teen dating violence included in that law, Break the Cycle set out to assess each state’s ability to protect teens from abusive relationships by creating the first “State-by-State Teen Dating Violence Report Card” in 2008. As each state’s laws differ, Break the Cycle established a consistent standard for evaluating and grading each state. The law firm of Latham & Watkins assisted with the research.

“With several states changing their laws to better protect teens since 2008, we have already seen that these grades spur action among state legislatures throughout the country, as well as activism among our nation’s youth,” said Marjorie Gilberg, Executive Director of Break the Cycle. “It is essential that dating violence and the needs of minor victims be specifically addressed within state domestic violence statutes. State lawmakers have a responsibility to address this issue and to propose legislation that will ensure the protection of all victims of domestic violence – regardless of their age.”


  • Only five states (10%) received A’s – CA, IL, MN, NH and OK.
  • Two states received A’s for the first time – IL and MN.
  • Eight states’ grades improved from 2008 – IL, MN, MS, FL, DE, WS, MD, NY and IA
  • Nine states (18%) received B’s – AR, FL, IN, LA, MS, PA, TX, WA, WI
  • Fourteen states (27%) received C’s– AK, DE, DC, HI, ME, MD, MI, NJ, NY, RI, TN, VT, WV, WY
  • Twenty-three states, almost half (45%) ,failed to make passing grades:
  • Twelve states (24%) received D’s – CO, CN, ID, IA, KS, MA, MO, NB, NV, NM, ND
  • Eleven states (21%) received F’s – AL, AZ, GE, KY, MO, NC, SC, SD, UT, VI

Sample of Key Findings

  • New Hampshire (A) is the only state where the law specifically allows a minor of any age to go to court by themselves and apply for a protection order.
  • In Missouri (F), domestic violence protection orders are only available to adults.
  • Nine states, CA (A), CT (D), MN (A), NJ (C), OK (A), OR (D), UT (F), WA (B) and WY (C), allow minors to obtain protection or restraining orders without the involvement of a parent, guardian or other adult if they meet certain requirements, such as age or relationship to abuser.
  • Four states, AZ (F), ID (D), IA (D) , and NV (D), explicitly require that a minor must have a parent or legal guardian involved in the process of applying for a protection or restraining order.
  • Seven states impose explicit age restrictions on the person against whom a protection or restraining order is obtained: AZ (F), CO (D), MI (C), MO (F), NV (D), NJ (C), and OK (A).

2009 State-by-State Report Card

Alabama F Kentucky F North Dakota D
Alaska C Louisiana B Ohio F
Arizona F Maine C Oklahoma A
Arkansas B Maryland C Oregon D
California A Massachusetts D Pennsylvania B
Connecticut D Minnesota A South Carolina F
Delaware C Mississippi B South Dakota F
District of Columbia C Missouri F Tennessee C
Florida B Montana D Texas B
Georgia F Nebraska D Utah F
Hawaii C Nevada D Vermont C
Idaho D New Hampshire A Virginia F
Illinois A New Jersey C Washington B
Indiana B New Mexico D West Virginia C
Iowa D New York C Wisconsin B
Kansas D North Carolina F Wyoming C

For more information and to download a complete copy of the 2009 State-by-State Teen Violence Report Card, please visit www.breakthecycle.org.