July 9, 2012
Teen Dating Violence Not A Priority For Schools
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics said that a majority of high schools in the United States don't have procedures or trained staff to deal with teen dating violence and often don't make teen dating violence a "high-priority issue to be addressed."
Despite research that shows notable levels of teen dating violence across the country, around 70 percent of high school counselors who were surveyed said they have not received any formal training in handling these issues.
"For example, if a female is abused in a relationship in a high school and they go to a school counselor, the counselor would not have a set protocol or procedure to handle the problem," lead author and Ball State University professor Jagdish Khubchandani told Reuters Health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen dating violence is a serious problem in the United States that often goes unreported. Statistics released by the centers last month show that about 10 percent of students nationwide report being physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend within the past year.
The data also showed that violence during teenage years could be a precursor to domestic abuse later in life. Among adult victims of rape, violence or stalking by an intimate partner, 22 percent of women and 15 percent of men first experienced some form of partner abuse between the ages of 11 and 17, according to the CDC.
The centers also noted that teen victims of dating violence are more often depressed, have lower grades, engage in drug and alcohol use, and have eating disorders or are more likely to commit suicide.
The latest survey indicated that many high schools are woefully unprepared for dealing with such dire situations. Around 81 percent of respondents said their schools did not have a protocol in place to deal with a dating violence incident. About 16 percent said their schools had discussed creating procedures for handling an incident or were in the process of implementing them.
Nearly all of the counselors surveyed, about 90 percent, said their schools had not provided training for handling adolescent dating violence to staff within the past two years.
Because Khubchandani and his colleagues note that teens who are victims of dating violence are more likely to reach out to peers or adults at school, they made a series of suggestions to enhance the ability of school personnel to detect and deal with such incidents.
Researchers said health organizations like the National Association of School Nurses should offer guidance counselors information and training. In addition, school officials should periodically assess the extent of dating violence in their schools and come up with strategies for identifying and mitigating it. The study also suggested that administrators should also familiarize themselves and their staffs with relevant state laws on dating violence and minor consent.
“School counselors and pediatricians need to reach out to one another to form partnerships” to create a set of skills and strategies for dealing with adolescent dating violence, the researchers wrote.
Khubchandani added that because there are only limited materials out there now for schools and counselors, national organizations need to start reaching out to members and start developing policies and protocols.