A Date With Violence

The world of dating is fraught with perils—from ill-conceived blind dates to the risk of rejection. But it’s not only egos that can get bruised. As if the psychological stress of dating weren’t enough, real violence happens all too often, and problems can start early. The odds a female high school student will be a victim of dating violence—being “hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose”—by a boyfriend or girlfriend in a year are 1 in 10.75. A male student’s odds are actually even higher, at 1 in 9.71.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abusive behavior among teens. Of those 13 – 18 who’ve been in a relationship, 1 in 3.45 has suffered sexual abuse, physical abuse, or threats of abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Even more—1 in 2.13, or nearly half—have been the victim of “controlling behavior.”

And nearly a fourth, or 1 in 4.17, has been victimized by a boyfriend or girlfriend through the use of technology like texting, social networking, etc. In the experience of Rosa Leon of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Collier County, Florida, most people who seek shelter are being harassed through their cell phones (via texts and calls). “Textual harassment” has grown “astonishingly worse in the last two years,” according to Jill Murray, author of But I Love Him: Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships.

Sexual violence, too, often begins early. The odds a female high school student will be forced to have sex in a year are 1 in 9.52. That’s over ten percent—just in a year. For male students, the odds are lower but still substantial at 1 in 22.22.

With dating so hazardous for young people, it’s no wonder so many of us (of any age) have stories of partner violence to tell. The odds a woman has ever been pushed, slapped, choked, or hit by a partner or spouse are 1 in 3.7. The odds for a man: 1 in 7.14. Most commonly, nonfatal partner violence takes the form of grabbing, holding, tripping, slapping, or knocking down, but among female victims 1 in 13.89 are raped, and 1 in 5.65 male victims are attacked with a blunt object. Women, perhaps because they tend to be physically weaker, are more likely to attack with a knife or throw things.

Not surprisingly, most of this violence occurs at home: that’s where 1 in 1.6 female victims of nonfatal partner violence (63%) and 1 in 1.66 male victims (60%) are attacked. Some couples, it seems, might be better off keeping their distance.

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