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April 10, 2013

STANCZYKIEWICZ: Dating violence has lifelong impact

Prom season can create a lifetime of memories, but for too many teenagers those memories are tragic and carry a lifetime of consequences.

Teen dating violence in Indiana consistently is higher than national averages. For example, 15 percent of female high school students report being raped on a date —the second-highest rate in the nation and three percentage points higher than the rest of the country.

In 2009, nearly 11 percent of female high school students reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt by their date, two percentage points higher than the U.S. average. In addition, 12 percent of high school males reported being victimized by the person they were dating.

The wretched effects of teen dating violence persist into adulthood. According to a Cornell University study, young women who endured dating violence in their teen years are more likely to suffer from depression, have suicidal thoughts and engage in binge drinking. Young men, meanwhile, also are more likely to be suicidal, abuse drugs and engage in delinquent behaviors if they suffered teen dating violence.

Sadly, the Cornell study found that teens who are abused or assaulted during a date are two to three times more likely to again be victims of dating violence as adults.

Dissecting this cycle of dating violence, Deinera Exner-Cortens of Cornell explained, “Adolescence is a time when teens start to date and learn about healthy relationships. So when their earliest dating experiences are unhealthy, it may negatively affect a teen’s view of what a healthy dating relationship looks like.”

Along with the traumatic human cost, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the financial cost associated with teen dating violence to be $5.8 billion, primarily for health care and law enforcement.

The Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault recommends that parents and other caring adults watch teens for the warning signs of a violent dating relationship. Along with physical injury, the list includes truancy, falling grades, changes in mood including an increase in emotional outbursts as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

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