National statistics on dating violence show a startling trend:
- 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year.
- 1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Girls between ages 16-24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. Three times the national average.
Teens are more than likely to first disclose abuse to a peer but if they chose to disclose abuse to a trusted adult we should be equipped to help them navigate the process. Below are some suggestions on how we can best help a young person begin the journey of addressing the abuse.
Barriers to Disclosing Abuse
Let’s start by looking at the reasons a young person might not say anything about the abuse:
- Fear of not being believed.
- They believe they are responsible for the abuse.
- Need to protect the abuse/family.
- Asking for help equals weakness.
- Fear of reprisal.
What Leads to Disclosure
- Medical concerns
- Realizing implications of abuse
- Asked about the abuse by a non-family member
- Siblings are at-risk
- Abuse becomes intolerable
- No longer in relationship with abuser
- Safe relationships to confide in
How Best to Respond
- Don’t judge/Check personal bias
- Be direct but don’t force the conversation
- Manage your reactions (don’t overreact)
- Remember appropriate developmental expectations
- Be patient
- Consider gender/sexuality issues
- Follow-up/Take action
If you work with youth/teens in any capacity you are likely a mandated reporter (check your state guidelines). It would also be wise to develop a program policy specific to how your team should handle disclosure of abuse of any kind.