Physical and Sexual Abuse Twice As High As Previously Reported

According to a study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in JAMA Pediatrics. Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated — a figure twice as high as previously estimated, a new study shows. Ten percent of high school boys also report having been physically or sexually assaulted by a dating partner, about the same rate reported in earlier surveys. Authors of the new report note that the CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults. Assaults by romantic partners often aren’t isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC’s Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.

Teens who have experienced dating violence are at much higher risk for a variety of serious problems. For example, they’re more than twice as likely as others to consider suicide. Boys who have faced dating violence are nearly four times as likely to have been bullied online; girls are more than twice as likely.

Boys and girls who have been victims of dating violence are more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, use marijuana or cocaine and have sex with multiple partners the study says.

Researchers don’t know if any of these events causes the others, however. While it’s possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it’s also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships.

Parents who are concerned that their child is in an unhealthy relationship, need to discuss it with their child, but do it in a way that doesn’t cause the child to shut down. Teens often hide the abuse from their parents. Teens may not be able to confide in friends, either, because abusers sometimes isolate their victims from loved ones. Teens are sometimes more willing to talk to doctors, especially if their parents are not in the room.