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Outcome: Socially and Emotionally Healthy and Safe

Youth Reporting Hurtful Dating Behavior

6% of middle and 5% of high school students in 2014-2015 reported hurtful or controlling dating behavior which is lower than state and national data.

Significance of indicator: Dating abuse consists of physical, emotional, and sexual behaviors intended to hurt or control a dating partner. Dating abuse may start with teasing and name-calling, behaviors considered by some to be a “normal” part of a relationship. But these behaviors can escalate and lead to more serious forms of abuse like physical assault and rape, resulting in negative health outcomes throughout life. Teens who are victims are more likely to be depressed and do poorly in school. Girls who have experienced dating abuse are at increased risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. They may also engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using drugs and alcohol, and are more likely to have eating disorders. Some teens even think about or attempt suicide. Teens who are victims in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college.

How we are doing on this indicator: The 2010-11 AISD Student Substance Use and Safety Survey included for the first time a question about hurtful or controlling dating behavior in the broader category of bullying occurring at school. In 2010-11, 8% of middle school students and 7% of high school students reported dating abuse, in 2012-13, 7% of middle and 6% of high school students reported dating abuse. The numbers did not change in 2013-2014.

Available data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS, 2012) for Texas indicate that 11.8% of male and female high school students have experienced physical dating violence compared to 9.4% of high school students nationwide. Physical dating violence is defined as: hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend during the 12 month before the survey. The prevalence of dating violence nationally did not change significantly from 1999 to 2011.

Due to the discrepancy in definitions local, state and national data cannot be compared directly. Local prevalence rates appear to be lower than state and national prevalence rates. However, it is clear that a significant number of middle and high school students in Austin and nationwide experience dating abuse.

In the 2011-12 school year, of the 878 at-risk students in Austin/Travis County referred to SafePlace for school-based counseling: 41% indicated they had experienced domestic violence; 34% experienced child abuse by a parent/caregiver including sexual abuse; 53% reported abusive peer or dating relationships; and 57% experienced other forms of violence in the school or community. These categories were not mutually exclusive; in fact, many youth experienced multiple forms of violence.

what the data tell us

Data Source: Austin Independent School District, 2015

Data Considerations: Students responded to the question, "During this school year, have you experienced any of the following types of bullying at school? ... Hurtful or controlling dating behavior."

Data for this question are not available before the 2010-11 school year.

A closer look at the data

Prevalence of Dating Abuse

Dating abuse consists of physical, emotional, and sexual behaviors intended to hurt or control a dating partner. While we are just beginning to collect data on dating abuse in the Austin area, national surveys point to the extent of dating abuse among teens which experts have called a public health epidemic.

% of High School Students who Experienced Dating Violence 1999-2011

Definition: The percentage of high school students who experienced physical dating violence defined as "hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend during 12 months before the survey."

Data Source: National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, CDC, 1999-2011

Data Considerations: The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is administered to high school students every 2 years in major metropolitan areas across the United States.

  • Both boys and girls are victims of physical dating abuse, although the effect of physical abuse perpetrated by girls is typically less severe (fewer injuries) and does not induce the same level of fear and intimidation as physical abuse perpetrated by boys (Molidor, Tolman, & Kober, 2000).
  • Teens in same-sex relationships experience rates of violence and abuse similar to rates experienced by teens in heterosexual relationships. Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health finds that nearly one in four teens and young adults (ages 12-21 years) in same-sex romantic or sexual relationships reported some type of partner violence victimization in the past year-and-a-half. One in ten reported experiencing physical violence by a dating partner (Halpern, Young, Waller, Martin & Kupper, 2004).
  • Prevalence rates for youth violence and adult partner violence are the highest in communities with concentrated disadvantages, which lack resources and positive role models (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2004; Guerra & Williams, 2006). In the YRBS, African Americans reported higher rates of dating violence perpetration and victimization than Whites, Hispanics, or Asians. Other studies, e.g. Malik, Sorenson, and Anehensel (1997), demonstrated that the effects of ethnicity were accounted for by exposure to community and family violence--highest among African Americans--which was concordant with other studies (O'Keefe, 1997; U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2004).
% of High School Students who Experienced Dating Violence by Sex and Race/Ethnicity

 

Definition: The percentage of high school students who experienced physical dating violence by sex and race/ethnicity.

Data Source: National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, CDC, 2011

Data Considerations: The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is administered to high school students every 2 years in major metropolitan areas across the United States.

The story behind the data

Consequences of Teen Dating Abuse

Teen victims of physical dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors (taking diet pills or laxatives and vomiting to lose weight), engage in risky sexual behaviors, have an unwanted pregnancy, STI, and attempt or consider suicide.

Indicator Definition: The percentage of high school students who experienced dating violence in association with academic performance.

Data Source: National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, CDC, 2009

Data Considerations: The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is administered to high school students every 2 years in major metropolitan areas across the United States.

Some Local Efforts to Improve this Indicator

Recommendations

The following recommendations for effective dating abuse prevention strategies emerge from recent research and our local work:

Contributor

Compiled by Barbara Ball, PhD, SafePlace. Contact bball@SafePlace.org