It Takes A Community To Stop Dating Violence

By: Aisha Burgess – Interim Program Director, Dating Matters Initiative

Domestic Violence is a serious public health problem that often starts in adolescence.  In understanding adolescent development, we know that adolescents often develop behavioral norms by observing acceptable behaviors, consequences or reactions of those close to them. Once looked at as acceptable behavior, teen dating violence is beginning to gain national attention as an issue that must be addressed early in a child’s development.

February marks Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and now is a good time to talk about this issue and what is being done to address it.

Teen dating violence is defined as a type of intimate partner violence that can include physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence, or stalking.  It can occur electronically or in-person, between former or current dating partners, and may start as name calling or teasing.  While most adolescents don’t recognize psychological dating violence, victimization from this type of dating violence occurs more frequently and is just as harmful.  In fact, the consequences of teen dating violence are serious.  Youth experiencing dating violence tend to exhibit other risk behaviors including drug and alcohol abuse, sexual risk taking or suicidal ideation.

The statistics are alarming:

  • One in three girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, which exceeds the rate of other forms of youth violence.
  • According to the CDC’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, roughly 10.3% of high school students who dated in the last 12 months reported being physically injured on purpose by someone they were dating.
  • In Maryland, 11.1% of high school youth reported experiencing physical dating violence in the previous year and this percentage is as high as 40% in some areas of the country.

Preliminary data reveals similar statistics for a younger population of middle school students in Baltimore city.  Studies show that teens that see violence in their families are more likely to be abused or to be abusive in a dating relationship.

Baltimore City is one of just four cities in America piloting Dating Matters, a comprehensive teen dating violence prevention initiative designed by the Centers for Disease Control focusing on 11– to 14–year–olds in high-risk, urban communities.  The project serves 11 public schools in the Upton, Westport, Curtis Bay, Franklin Square, Milton Montford, Cherry Hill, Sandtown-Winchester and Middle East neighborhoods.

This program provides a comprehensive community response to reduce youth exposure to dating violence by targeting middle schools, parents of middle school students, middle school students in 6th-8th grade, teachers and community organizations with violence prevention strategies over a 5 year period.

Our focus is on preventing teen dating violence and promoting healthy teen relationships, with a curriculum built around healthy relationship behaviors, warning signs of teen dating violence, anger management, conflict resolution, emotion identification and effective communication.

Since we know that the academic success of youth is strongly linked with their health, the BCHD Dating Matters program also provides on-line training to educators on teen dating violence to help teachers understand their role in promoting healthy relationships, while providing an understanding of the warning signs and risk factors associated with teen dating violence.

Prevention work is a shared responsibility and to effectively put a stop to dating violence a comprehensive approach is required. Dating Matters is that comprehensive strategy!

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