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OR Teens Learn Early that Some Dates are Dangerous

February 11, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - Valentine's Day is anything but "hearts and flowers" when one partner can't control their temper, and dating violence can happen at any age. A 2009 survey of Oregon 11th-graders found six percent had been intentionally hit, slapped or physically hurt by someone they were dating.

National figures are much higher, although Kerry Naughton says the problem is hard to quantify. She's the Crime Survivor Program director for the Partnership for Safety and Justice. She explains many people do not report dating violence because they're embarrassed or they don't think of it as a crime.

"It's difficult enough to really get a handle on the prevalence of intimate partner violence in adult relationships. It's even more difficult when we're talking about teenagers, who have a lot less experience with healthy relationships and dating in general."

In a 2004 University of Michigan survey, 81 percent of parents said dating violence either was not an issue for their children, or they were not sure if it was, and more than half had not discussed the topic with their teens.

Naughton says often people make excuses for the erratic behavior of someone they care about, which can lead to an escalating cycle of abuse.

"Dating violence isn't just a bad mood after a bad day. It's actually a pattern of behavior that can include physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse."

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Naughton says her group's Web site has links to information for both teens and parents at www.safetyandjustice.org. (Click on "crime survivors.") The national Teen Dating Abuse telephone helpline is 1-866-331-9474.

The Oregon 11th-graders statistic is from the 2009 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey conducted by the Oregon Department of Human Services and Oregon Department of Education.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR