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Teen Dating Violence: U.S. High Schools Unequipped To Handle The Issue, Study Shows

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A study out of Ball State University has found that most schools do not consider adolescent dating violence a high-priority issue, with 81.3 percent of high school counselors surveyed reporting that their schools do not have a protocol or procedure in place for responding to incidents of such violence.

Adolescent dating violence (ADV) is defined as physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship, and has garnered increased attention among administrators, health professionals and public policy makers.

In the study, 90 percent of respondents reported that training to assist victims of teen dating abuse has not been provided to personnel in their schools in the past two years. Of the counselors surveyed, 43 percent pointed to this lack of formal training as the main barrier to helping these victims. Another 28 percent believed that ADV was a minor issue compared to all the other health issues counselors must address.

Counselors who perceived dating violence as a serious problem in the United States were four times more likely to assist a victim of ADV.

The study, which will be published in the August edition of Pediatrics, surveyed 305 counselors, all members of the American School Counselor Association. Sixty-one percent reported they had assisted victims of dating-related violence in the past two years -- some despite a lack of formal training. In most cases, they helped the victim in question by calling parents/guardians, or referring the student to legal authorities. Slightly more than one in 10 school counselors aided a victim by referring a to child protection agencies and school nurses for legal and medical assistance.

"[This is] the first research project to identify the need of formal training on adolescent dating violence for school personnel," said Jagdish Khubchandani, a Ball State community health education professor and faculty fellow with the university's Global Health Institute. "Hopefully, this study will be a pioneer in helping establish school policies, protocols and procedures for adolescent dating violence prevention."

According to the study, more than half of U.S. adolescents reported being involved in a special romantic relationship within the last 18 months. Additionally, nearly three in four eighth- and ninth-graders reportedly date by the time they are in high school, with one in every 11 adolescents reportedly being a victim of dating violence, according to a national study.

Both males and females have been victims of partner aggression, though girls are overwhelmingly more prone to serious injury -- be it psychological or physical -- as a result of such violence.

In 2010, Congress approved of nationally recognizing February as Teen Dating Violence and Awareness and Prevention Month, designed to draw attention to alarming statistics regarding abuse in adolescent relationships. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

In Chicago, local anti-violence nonprofit Between Friends has worked to provide citywide counseling, legal assistance and health care education in an effort to combat domestic violence.

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