Nearly 1.5 million high-school students in the U.S. are physically abused by dating partners every year. More than one-third of 10th-graders (35 percent) have been physically or verbally abused by dating partners, while a similar percentage are perpetrators of such abuse. Youth from low-income backgrounds, those from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and LGBTQ students are at the greatest risk of experiencing such harm.
The consequences are devastating. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that adolescents who experienced teen dating violence were more likely than those who didn’t to report being bullied on school grounds and missing school due to feeling unsafe. Victims of dating abuse are also more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and to consider suicide, than their non-abused peers.
All of this negatively affects academic achievement. Yet in the face of mounting evidence of harm—and several decades of research and analysis—addressing teen dating violence remains a low priority in public schools, according to a new report published in the peer-reviewed journal Violence and Gender.
For the study, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of high-school principals on their knowledge of teen dating violence—defined in the study as verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse—as well as their schools’ policies, and their beliefs about the role of school personnel in both preventing dating abuse and assisting victims. The four-page questionnaire was sent in the 2015-16 year to 750 randomly selected public-school principals, with a 54 percent response rate.