Primary Sources: A Trio of Fact Sheets Tackle Dating Violence

A stack of fact sheets.

Dating violence--physical, emotional or sexual—is all too common among American adolescents, according to the latest research. But taking a public-health approach to the problem can prevent abusive relationships among young people.  

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, the Family and Youth Services Bureau or the Administration for Children and Families).

Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, say the authors of “The Facts on Teens and Dating Violence” (PDF, 41KB), published last year by the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Nearly one in ten American high-school students has been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. And nearly one in three sexually active high-school girls has experienced physical or sexual violence from a dating partner. But dating violence isn’t just a problem in and of itself. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, attempt or consider suicide, engage in unhealthy eating and have risky sex.

Despite the prevalence of adolescent dating violence, parents may be out of touch about the problem. Forty percent of young people report knowing a peer who has experienced physical violence, unwanted sexual pressure or advances, or humiliation, threats and other types of emotional abuse, report the authors of “The Facts About Teen Dating Violence” (PDF, 600 KB) published last August by the federal Office of Violence Against Women. Yet only 24 percent of parents say they know of someone in their child’s peer group who has been victimized. The authors of this fact sheet also explain how technology has become, to some extent, a conduit for dating abuse: 25 percent of teens in a relationship say they have been harassed or put down by their partner by cell phone or text message, and 17 percent of teens say they have been afraid not to respond to an electronic message from a partner “because of what he or she might do.” The stress and confusion of an abusive relationship can inhibit a young person’s “capacity to think, learn and plan for the future,” the authors write. But because legal protections for young victims of dating violence vary among States, minors may be unable to obtain protection orders that could keep them safe.

Young people who lash out at their romantic partners tend to be more depressed and aggressive than their peers, say the authors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Understanding Teen Dating Violence Fact Sheet.” Potential abusers may also have drinking problems or may have witnessed violence at home or in the community. Teaching young people about healthy relationships is a key to preventing teen dating violence, the fact sheet’s authors say. They outline the CDC’s four-step approach to preventing teen dating violence and other public health problems:

  1. Define the problem: Find out how big a problem dating violence is in a particular community, where it happens (in or out of school, at home), and whom it affects.
  2. Identify “risk and protective factors”: Investigate the underlying reasons dating violence occurs between certain young people in certain areas and the reasons other young people are less likely to become victims (or victimizers).
  3. Develop and test prevention strategies: Use the information gathered in step 2 to develop, monitor and evaluate strategies to prevent adolescent dating violence.
  4. Spread the word: Share effective prevention strategies with others addressing the issue, taking into account varied socioeconomic and cultural factors.

Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of these and other publications.

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