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Teen dating abuse and how schools can help prevent it
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Teen dating abuse and how schools can help prevent it

While the general public knows that Valentine's Day is in February, most may not be aware that it is also a month dedicated to teen dating violence awareness and prevention.

According to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Initiative was started by teenagers, and in 2005, the need for addressing teen violence was included in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

In 2010, Congress changed National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week to Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month that will begin Feb. 1.

“About 1 in 3 high school students have been or will be involved in an abusive relationship,” wrote Russell Cook, a family advocate, in an article on the Barksdale Air Force Base website. In addition, about 40 percent of teenage girls between the ages of 14 to 17 said they know a peer who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.

Despite such high statistics, many researchers, parents, teachers and activists report that dating violence is often a silent crime that goes undetected and underreported.

“I think at least part of the answer to this communication dilemma can be answered by parents in the form of improved education,” Cook wrote. “When we educate ourselves, we begin to consider those admittedly frightening possibilities that ultimately increase our kids' safety.”

A recent study, published in the journal Pediatrics, reports that educating teens through school-based intervention proved to be an effective way to decrease and stop teen dating abuse.

The researchers surveyed students during the 2012-13 academic year at eight school-based health centers in California, reported Futurity.

According to Futurity, about 1,062 teenagers between the ages of 14 to 19 were asked about their experience with relationship abuse, cyberabuse, sexual behavior and if they sought care for their sexual and reproductive health.

While four school-based health centers did not implement any new procedures, at the other four centers the staff was taught how to speak about relationships and was given relationship abuse brochures to distribute to the youth.

After three months, the teenagers were asked the same questions again, and researchers found that at the centers with more intervention the teenagers were more likely to recognize sexual coercion, and reports of relationship abuse decreased.

“Prevention of relationship abuse among adolescents requires a range of strategies from educating youth and adults about the extent of the problem; connecting youth to relevant supports and services; and engaging schools, parents and other influential adults to talk about healthy relationships,” researcher Alison Chopel, of the Public Health Institute’s California Adolescent Health Collaborative, said to Futurity.

Dédalo Purificação, an outreach coordinator at Domestic Violence Solutions, writing in The Independent, encouraged communities to provide “home bases” where youth can ask questions and learn about healthy relationship.

“Together, let’s create places where youth can come and take a breather, where teens can talk and hear about possibilities that makes them aware of their world, and where they have a chance to reach a maturity and understanding about relationships that will serve them and generations to come,” said Purificação.

Email: kclark@deseretnews.com Twitter: @clark_kelsey3