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Baltimore Tries New Approach to Curb Teen Dating Violence

Maryland is one of four states selected to pilot an anti-dating violence program for students ages 11 to 14. (Veronica Carter)
Maryland is one of four states selected to pilot an anti-dating violence program for students ages 11 to 14. (Veronica Carter)
February 18, 2016

BALTIMORE – Baltimore is one of four cities around the country where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is conducting a study.

The goal is to see how to get the message across to teens that no relationship is worth getting hurt.

It's Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and a pilot program called Dating Matters has launched in 10 Baltimore city schools, for 11 to 14-year-olds.

Phyllis Holditch Niolon, a behavioral scientist at the CDC, says the problem is widespread with 21 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys saying they've experienced violence with a dating partner.

"We define that as including physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence within the dating relationship, including stalking, in person or electronically, and can occur between a current or a former dating partner," she explains.

The Dating Matters program works with teachers, parents and students to “spot and stop” violence.

High school students in Baltimore also are asked to talk about their experiences with younger kids, to help prevent them from getting into abusive relationships.

Holditch Niolon says teens experiencing dating violence can go on to develop other serious problems.

"Teens who experience dating violence are also more likely to experience anxiety and depression,
suicidal thoughts, engagement in unhealthy substance-use behaviors, involvement in antisocial behaviors, such as delinquency," she stresses.

Baltimore, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif., are the four cities where schools are testing the Dating Matters program. Results will be tabulated in 2017.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD