February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Awareness Month

February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Awareness Month

Marcus McTear and Ortralla Mosely were once among the most popular kids at Reagan High School in Austin, Texas. He was a football star and she was a beautiful cheerleader with straight ‘A’s. From the outside, It looked like an ideal teenage romance, but inside the relationship, Marcus was an emotional wreck who demanded complete control over his 15-year-old girlfriend. After several violent outbursts with her, he pulled an 8 inch kitchen knife out of his backpack in the school hallway and stabbed her to death.

What went wrong? How did a boy with such rage escape the attention of parents and teachers?

Throughout the month of February, advocates and educators from across the country are focused on the risk factors associated with teen dating violence, and what can be done to prevent it. According to a national survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, teen victims of dating violence are overwhelmingly more likely to have been victims of other forms of violence, such as sexual violence and child abuse.

Cyberbullying also was linked to teen dating violence. Youth who had been cyberbullied were three to four times more likely to be teen dating violence victims than other youth.

The other forms of victimization experienced by teen dating violence victims frequently did not come at the hands of dating partners. More than half of victims reported a history of some form of child abuse, with 40 percent of victims physically abused by a caregiver, and nearly 70 percent having witnessed violence in their families. An alarmingly high percentage — 60 percent — had also experienced at least one type of sexual victimization, with the most common types being verbally sexually harassed (30 percent), flashed by a peer (25 percent), and sexually assaulted (20 percent).

“Hurters hurt,” says Esta Soler, Founder and President of Futures Without Violence. “With evidence building in support of the link between childhood exposure to violence and abusive and unhealthy relationships later in life, the need for programs that prevent violence before it occurs is clearer than ever.”

According to Sherry Hamby, lead author of the new study, “We know that some youth are just generally more at risk for everything than other youth. . . In particular, 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.”

We’ll be talking about the importance of such programs at a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. at the end of the month. Among other supporters, baseball legend Joe Torre will speak about the unique role that men can play as mentors to young boys in preventing violence against women and children.

For more information on our programs to prevent teen dating violence, check out:

Photo: Ortralla Mosely, Myspace

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