Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - May 23, 2014

Dating violence: What parents, other adults can do

Each year, one in 10 American teenagers suffers from physical violence at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to President Obama's proclamation declaring February "National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month" for the fourth consecutive year.

The national Centers for Disease Control 2011 survey showed 9.4 percent of high school students reporting being hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the last 12 months.

Despite its prevalence, adults are often unaware that teens experience dating violence, the CDC's website states. According to CDC and other experts, this is due to shame, stigma, fear of retaliation, lack of awareness, and adults' tendency to minimize issues if reported.

Advice for adults: When a young person discloses abuse in a dating relationship*

* Approach without judging sexual or relationship choices

* Don't assume sexual orientation or gender identity

* Be honest about your ability to keep information confidential

* Don't control the situation, unless an emergency requires you to

* Ask youth how they want to handle the situation

* Don't minimize the abuse or importance of the relationship

* Provide information on local, youth-friendly resources

Know what to say:*

* "You deserve to be treated with respect."

* "This is important."

* "I believe you."

* "I'm glad you told me about this."

* "It's not your fault."

* "I want you to be safe."

* "I'm here if you ever need help or want to talk."

More information on how parents can help if their teen is in an unhealthy dating relationship is posted on the "Love Is Respect" website (a collaboration of Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Hotline) at loveisrespect.org/get-help/help-others/help-your-child.

Also, Palo Alto Police Department school liaison DuJuan Green recommends getting information about local agencies and support through the nonprofit Next Door (nextdoor.org) in San Jose.

A longer version of this article is posted on PaloAltoOnline.com.

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