The fact that teenagers are grappling with intimate partner violence might be surprising, but it’s actually incredibly common.
In 2017 alone, 7 percent of high schoolers said they had experienced sexual violence by a dating partner, and 8 percent reported physical violence, according to C.D.C. “That translates to a huge number of adolescents,” said Adhia, a researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Include psychological abuse, and these numbers rise significantly. More than 60 percent of adolescents who date (both boys and girls) said they had experienced physical, sexual or psychological abuse from a partner, according to the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence published in 2016.
“These relationships set the stage for future relationships,” Adhia said, adding that this abuse could lead to long-lasting emotional scars like anxiety, depression, substance use, antisocial behavior, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts.
What can be done? Dr. Megan Bair-Merritt, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine who wrote an editorial to accompany the study, says it’s important for adults to foster open and honest conversations about relationships with the children in their lives, even before they start dating.
Children should also know they have “safe adults” (parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches) to rely on during hard times, Bair-Merritt said.
“Safe relationships with adults buffer from stressors,” she said. “The more, the better.”
If you or someone you know needs help, support is available. Visit the The National Teen Dating Abuse, call (866) 331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522.