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Study: US High Schools Lax in Preventing Dating Abuse

Update Date: Jul 12, 2012 11:21 AM EDT

A new report has revealed that preventing dating abuse and assisting victims are not priorities for U.S. high schools.

The study was published online July 9 and in the August print issue of Pediatrics.

Researchers at Ball State University surveyed 550 high school counselors asking about their training and ability to deal with teen dating violence. The findings revealed that more than 81 percent of the respondents said their school had no protocol for responding to a report of dating violence, 90 percent said there had been no staff training in the previous two years regarding student victims of dating abuse, and more than three-quarters said their school had no committee that dealt with health and safety issues including dating abuse or healthy relationships.

"We found that the majority of schools don't have a protocol to deal with incidents of teen dating abuse," said lead researcher Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani. "This means that most of the school counselors would not know what to do. This is also true for school nurses."

According to 2009 nationwide survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.8 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey and about 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.

Khubchandan said everyone should be paying attention to the numbers.

"There needs to be more awareness and education about dating violence," Khubchandani said. "Parents and school personnel should collaborate, and there should be regular assessments of the prevalence of this problem."

The CDC uses a 4-step approach to address public health problems like dating violence.

  • Step 1: Define the problem: Before we can prevent dating violence, we need to know how big the problem is, where it is, and whom it affects. CDC learns about a problem by gathering and studying data. These data are critical because they help decision makers send resources where they are needed most.
  • Step 2: Identify risk and protective factors: It is not enough to know that dating violence is affecting a certain group of people in a certain area. We also need to know why. CDC conducts and supports research to answer this question. We can then develop programs to reduce or get rid of risk factors.
  • Step 3: Develop and test prevention strategies: Using information gathered in research, CDC develops and evaluates strategies to prevent violence.
  • Step 4: Assure widespread adoption: In this final step, CDC shares the best prevention strategies. CDC may also provide funding or technical help so communities can adopt these strategies.

For more information on teen dating violence, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

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