(dailyRx News) When a teenager goes on a date with someone she knows, and instead is abused sexually or physically by the "date", it's likely not the only time she's experienced violence.
Teen dating violence is often thought of as a stand-alone crime, but new research shows that it is more often a pattern of multiple victimizations.
At the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, Sherry Hamby led a survey about dating violence on 1,680 youth aged 12 to 17. Her research team was surprised to discover that for a distressingly high percentage, the dating victimization wasn't the first time they had been abused.
Sixty percent of the teens surveyed had also experienced at least one type of sexual violence, with the most common being verbal harassment (30 percent), flashing by a peer (25 percent) or sexual assault (20 percent).
Child abuse was another common abuse also cited among the victims of teen dating violence. More than half had a history of some form of child abuse, with more than 40 percent experiencing abuse at the hands of a caregiver and nearly 70 percent having witnessed violence within their families.
“We were genuinely surprised how interconnected teen dating violence turned out to be with other forms of victimization. We thought there would be overlap but had no idea that all dating violence victims are dealing with other forms of violence and abuse as well,” said Hamby.
Cyber-bullying was also linked to dating violence in teens; those who had been cyber-bullied were three times more likely to be victims of dating violence than other teens. Hamby said that such previous abuse may make youth more vulnerable to future violence, by lowering their self-esteem or impairing their ability to protect themselves.
“We know that some youth are just generally more at risk for everything than other youth. We need to help kids from violent families, kids who have been bullied or kids who have been sexually abused from getting involved or staying in an assaultive relationship.”
The study was conducted in 2008 and involved interviews a nationally representative sample of 1,680 youth ages 12 to 17. In addition to Hamby, the researchers include David Finkelhor, director of the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center and professor of sociology, and Heather Turner, professor of sociology at UNH.
The report was published in a special February 2012 issue of the journal Psychology of Violence.