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One in Five Teen Girls Victim of Date Violence

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While getting counseling and support is important, another problem facing parents, siblings, or friends who want to help is not knowing whether a teenager is even in a relationship.

The definition of teen dating can range from one night of 'hooking up' to a steady long-term relationship. "And, of course, 'long term' for teenagers may be a matter of weeks, so [it's not] an easy issue to address by any means," Silverman says.

A researcher who has conducted similar studies of teenagers says there often is a common thread among teens who are victims of dating violence.

"There is a very strong relationship between teens who have experienced dating violence and those who have already been sexually abused," says Elizabeth Saewyc, PhD, RN, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "It seems that previous sexual abuse traumatizes these young women and sort of programs their relationship patterns so that they tend to choose partners who are likely to be violent."

Both Saewyc and Silverman agree that while the girls may be more likely to be the victims, they're not the only ones who need help.

"[W]e have to remember of course that it's the young men who are responsible for the behavior and can ultimately control whether this behavior is going to occur or not," Silverman says.

But Saewyc says there are few programs aimed at counseling boys and even in places where there are such programs, it's difficult to get abusive boys to agree to go for help.

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