Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Indiana’s Efforts in Breaking the Cycle of Dating Violence

In past years, February has been known as a month of Valentine’s Day cards, heart-shaped chocolates, and red roses; however this year the month of February has a much more valuable meaning. In his recent proclamation, President Barak Obama declared February, 2012 as national Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

“In America, an alarming number of young people experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse as part of a controlling or violent dating relationship. The consequences of dating violence- spanning impaired development to physical harm-pose a threat to the health and well0-being of teens across our Nation, and it is essential we come together to break the cycle of violence that burdens too many of our sons and daughters. This month, we recommit to providing critical support and services for victims of dating violence and empowering teens with the tools to cultivate healthy, respectful relationships”- President Barak Obama

Teen dating violence, which is a growing trend in the United States, is a type of intimate partner violence (IPV). Like other types of intimate partner violence, teen dating violence occurs between two people in a close relationship. With growing trends in technology, dating violence can occur in person or electronically. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse are the common types of teen dating violence. These acts of violence can range from verbal teasing to sexual assault. Teen dating violence can occur in any couple regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. The nature of teen dating violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual.

Teen dating violence, along with other types of intimate partner violence, continues to be a public health concerns in Indiana, as well as other parts of the United States. The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Program Statistics indicate that between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011 there were 62 deaths from domestic violence in the state of Indiana. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the past 12 months, one in 10 teens reported being hit or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. In 2012, it is estimated that one in 4 teens will experience dating violence.

With drastically increasing numbers of teen dating violence, it is vital that elected officials and public health leaders help to put an end to this growing epidemic. The CDC recently released data indicating that, on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. In Lawrence County, Indiana 9% of intimate partner victims were under the age of 18 (CDC, 2010).

With these high statistics of intimate partner violence, it is important that parents, teachers, and teens are aware of the dangers and signs of dating violence. Negative effects of dating violence not only occur during the time of the act but throughout life. Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by a partner with intimate partner violence related impacts such as injury, concern for safety, or need for housing services.

Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, indulge in binge drinking, attempt suicide, and engage in physical fighting and sexual activity. Victims may also carry the patterns of violence into future relationships. The 2010 study conducted by the CDC in Lawrence County, Indiana indicated that cultural and social norms are one of the contributing factors to domestic violence. It is important that these norms are changed on an individual and environmental level to end the cycle of violence and its life-threating impacts. An abusive relationship can have many long term impacts such as depression, substance abuse, and other health complications.

While substance abuse can be a long term consequence of an abusive relationship, it is also a risk factor for the onset of dating violence. While it is evident that dating violence stems from an issue of control and power between partners, the role of alcohol should still be addressed. Alcohol can increase the distortion of power and control and lead to violent behaviors. Many times, a battering incident that is coupled with alcohol may be much more severe and result in greater injury. In Lawrence County, IN 27% of domestic violence cases between 2007 and 2010 involved alcohol intoxication. Despite the lack of evidence suggesting a causal relationship between alcohol abuse and intimate partner violence, domestic abuse and drug and alcohol addiction frequently occur together. The U.S. Department of Justice stated that about 61% of domestic violence offenders also have substance abuse problems. This statistic proved to be true in Indiana as well, with many perpetrators in Lawrence County having prior criminal charges associated with substance abuse; 40%- public intoxication/ illegal consumption of alcohol, 32%- driving under the influence (DUI), and 26%- being charged with possession of a controlled substance. While alcohol use is a key risk factor in dating violence, alcohol abuse should not be used as an excuse for acts of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, or teen dating violence.

Despite the lack of reported cases, teen dating violence is a health concern for many young Hoosiers across the state. It is important that parents and teachers talk to students about the dangers of teen dating violence and ways to get help. Among adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, 22.4% of women and 15% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age (CDC, 2012). The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), along with other agencies throughout the state of Indiana, is working diligently to put an end to teen dating violence.
In 2010, Governor Mitch Daniels signed the Heather Law or Senate Enrolled Act 316, which requires the Indiana Department of Education, in collaboration with organizations that have expertise in dating violence, domestic violence and sexual abuse, to develop or identify model dating violence educational materials, and model dating violence response and reporting policies. The department was required to make these models available by July 1, 2011, to assist schools with the implementation of dating violence education programs and policies for grades 6 through 12. Since the Heather’s Law was passed, ICADV has been taking an environmental approach to teen dating violence prevention, by working with public school systems in the state of Indiana to adopt and implement evidence-based prevention education and policy in regards to dating violence.

The reality that anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse is vital to understanding the necessity of healthy relationship education in schools. The ICADV believes that efforts to end teen dating violence need to shift the responsibility from the children trying to dodge risk factors and red flags, to parents and school systems taking a more proactive approach. Colleen Yeakle, Prevention Coordinator at the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence, stated, “The most productive things that we can do as adults working with children are to model healthy behaviors, talk about healthy relationships, and prepare our children to expect relationships that consist of mutual respect”. The path towards a future free of dating violence begins with breaking the silence. While it is recommended for parents to talk to their children prior to the onset of dating, it is always important to continually monitor your child’s relationships. Frequently discussing the dangers of teen dating violence and promoting healthy, respectful relationships can help your child become more aware of the issues of teen dating violence. So help break the cycle of intimate partner violence by reminding your teen that love is respect and that no one deserves to be a victim of dating violence.

 

Learn more about Intimate Relationship Violence and Teen Dating Violence at:
CDC’s Dating Matters: Strategies to
Promote Healthy Teen Relationships
www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/datingmatters
National Dating Abuse Helpline:
1-866-331-9474 or text 77054
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
www.nsvrc.org
Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating
Violence Prevention
www.vetoviolence.org/datingmatters

By Theresa Hunter, 2/22/2012