'An epidemic that continues to wreak havoc": Young voices lifted to lawmakers on teen dating violence

'An epidemic that continues to wreak havoc": Young voices lifted to lawmakers on teen dating violence

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Teens took to the front-row to have their voices heard this morning, in a meeting on South Carolina State House grounds.

A group of high school students from Ridgeview High in Columbia and recently graduated-now-college students spoke to lawmakers on an issue they say affects their safety: teen dating violence. They want a bill is known as the "Teen Dating Violence Prevention Act" passed, finally.

After one of their peers, Sierra Landry was killed in 2014 by her estranged boyfriend, students hope this bill they are advocating for can be passed and provide more protection for young people.

Their laser-focus now is in the House of Representatives, since the Senate has already passed the bill. House members must be convinced the cause is worthy of a law. The audience inside of the Committee on Children meeting was impressed by the young speakers' words.

"We need to have legislation that's protecting our teens," Micayla Harden says.

Harden is one who wants 16 and 17-year-olds capable of obtaining a restraining order, without a parent's consent.

"I know that a lot of teenagers just aren't comfortable sharing that with their parents because it's simply too much to explain," Harden explains.

She also wants a curriculum in schools that teaches students what abuse is and how to escape. The bill would do these things. Acting committee chair and former teacher Rep. Shannon Erickson (R- Beaufort) met and spoke with the group.

"I'll chase down that education piece for you, I promise," she told them.

"I hope this year we will come back and realize it's something that our citizens are asking for, and that it would get a hearing. If the bill is not exactly perfect, then maybe we can tweak it. I'd love for these students to be a part of that process as well," she says.

Hayden, now a student at USC, says she will not stop fighting for the cause she's been pushing for three years.

"I want to feel like they're safe because, for my peers and I, that's not a feeling that we have all felt like, you know," she says.

The bill must have a subcommittee hearing, as the first step in getting through the House. That's not been scheduled yet.

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