Teen Dating Violence: National statistics: One in 10 high schoolers affected
Many teenagers are dealing with everyday abuse that older generations never had to worry about.
Local rates of domestic violence have increased due to the emotional strains of the economy, but cases of teen dating violence have been steadily increasing over the last decade.
According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States have been physically, emotionally or verbally abused by a partner. Nearly one-in-10 high school students, 8.9 percent, have been hit, slapped or physically hurt by a partner as well, according to the FVPF.
Although each new generation of parents have chosen a scapegoat for the rising trends of adolescent violence — loud rock music, drug abuse, violent movies or graphic video games — it seems that the number of teens turning to violence hasn’t subsided, leading them to ask the question: Could teenagers be more accepting of violence than ever before?
Last month Chris Brown and Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty — two teenage musicians in a celebrity relationship — gained national headlines after an alleged battery in their vehicle.
Forty-six percent of 200 teenagers, aged 12 to 19, blamed her for the altercation and 44 percent believed violence was a normal part of being in a relationship, according to a report by the Boston Public Health Commission. Both have starred in films marketed to teenagers and both produce albums that sell millions of copies worldwide.
The two celebrities in this case are obviously not to blame for the surge in abuse among teenagers, but they’re an ideal apotheosis of changing attitudes towards violence.
Christine Kobie, a community educator for Abuse Counseling and Treatment in Fort Myers, travels to local schools educating children on bullying, violence and sexual abuse. Through each seminar Kobie has sensed a general malaise in some teen relationships.
“Our statistics used to be one in four, but now they are one in three,” she said. “It’s becoming the norm and it’s more socially acceptable.”
During presentations she has witnessed students striking each other as they walk into the school cafeteria or auditorium and the reaction by others is laughter and acceptance. And the behaviors aren’t all boys, she said. In some cases girlfriends are hitting or punching their boyfriends in public.
“It’s almost looked at like they are fighting in a regular school fight, rather than looking at it as relationship violence,” said Kobie.
Violence in Lee County schools has risen substantially since 2004, according to statistics from a Safe and Drug Free Schools report released by Florida State University’s Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research.
Overall violent incidents in the school system increased from 228 to 337 over the last three years. Acts of battery jumped from 226 to 325 and instances of sexual battery went from two in 2004 to nine in 2007.
Threats and intimidation doubled between 2004 and 2007 from from 434 to 866.
While 97 percent of violent acts occur in school, according to the report, the amount of incidents off-campus also increased from 15 to 62 — and these are only the incidents actually reported to school or law enforcement officials.
Furthermore, only a fraction of schools throughout Lee County reported their incidents for the Safe and Drug Free Schools report.
At the core of psychological abuse is extreme jealousy and a person’s need to control another. According to Kobie, severe jealously is the No. 1 warning sign for abusive behavior. Teenage girlfriends or boyfriends have been known to control their appearance, where they can go and who they can spend time with.
Teens who are victims of dating violence are more likely to use drugs, suffer from an eating disorder, engage in risky sexual behavior and consider suicide.
For high school classes she educates students about sexual violence and harassment. Girls don’t always realize that they have the right to say no to sexual relations, she said, and as a result they don’t realize they’ve been sexually assaulted.
“They don’t realize they have the right to say no,” she said. “Because I’ve had sex before now I have to have sex with every partner.”
Couples who engage in “sexting,” or sending electronic messages with explicit photographs often find the pictures distributed across the school when the relationship ends. The recent case of a 14-year-old female from New Jersey, who is charged with distribution of child pornography for uploading explicit photos of herself on MySpace, shows that law enforcement is cracking down on this trend.
Representatives from ACT recommend that parents keep open lines of communication with their children and look for warning signs which include a drastic change in the child’s behavior. ACT also set up a MySpace page that provides information for children and their families at (www.myspace.com/act4teens).