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Study Shows 20 Percent Of High School Girls Experience Physical Or Sexual Abuse While Dating

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In a study that surveyed high school students in the United States, it was found that 1 in every five female students who are dating have experienced some form of dating-related violence in the last 12 months. In males, the rate is lower at 1 in every 10.

Published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the study employed the survey used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess national youth risk behavior and provide estimates on teen dating violence. The CDC has been using this survey since 1999 but incorporated changes in 2013 to better assess teen dating violence in its various forms, including sexual abuse, and screen out those students that don't date. Understanding teen dating violence is necessary as it provides better intervention opportunities given that certain kinds of teen dating violence have been linked to higher tobacco and alcohol use, suicidal tendencies, symptoms of depression, high-risk sexual behavior and eating disorders.

Kevin Vagi, Ph.D. and colleagues updated estimates for the prevalence of teen dating violence, including the first-ever published national estimate for physical and sexual teen dating violence as well as any form of teen dating violence, using new and revised questions in the survey.

Out of the 9,900 students in the survey who reported they were dating, 6.6 percent of female students experienced physical teen dating violence while 8 percent were subjected to sexual teen dating violence. Furthermore, 6.4 percent of female respondents encountered both physical and sexual teen dating violence while 20.9 percent reported at least one experience with teen dating violence.

In male students, just 4.1 percent were subjected to physical teen dating violence, 2.9 percent for sexual teen dating violence, and 3.3 percent for both types of teen dating violence while 10.4 percent experienced at least one form of teen dating violence.

In the survey, respondents were asked how many times did someone hurt them on purpose to determine the prevalence of physical teen dating violence. To assess rates of sexual teen dating violence, the high school students were asked how many times did someone they were going out with or dating forced them to do a sexual act they didn't want to.

The study concluded that the results indicate broader implications for efforts to prevent teen dating violence. While female students are likelier to experience teen dating violence than their male counterparts, both sexes are affected so prevention efforts must take into consideration both male and female students.

Alana Vivolo-Kantor, M.P.H., Kathleen Basile, Ph.D. and Emily O'Malley Olsen also contributed to the study.

Photo: Zorah Olivia | Flickr

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