ictims of teen dating violence are more likely to talk about it if a friend witnesses the incident, a recent study asserts.
Researchers from UT Arlington, the University of Michigan and two other institutions conducted the study to understand what leads abused teens to seek help. Their findings appear in the July issue of Violence Against Women.
“There are a number of possible reasons that teens are likely to talk about the violence if someone sees it,” UM social work Professor Daniel Saunders said. “The witness to the violence might start the conversation out of concern, or the victim might want to talk about the fear or embarrassment. Another possible reason is that the victim might feel comfortable discussing what has already been disclosed.”
Fifty-seven victims of dating violence at an urban high school were asked about the worst episode of violence they experienced. Someone else observed two-thirds of these incidents.
“We tend to think of violence between intimates as being behind closed doors,” said UT Arlington social work Professor Beverly Black, the study’s lead author. “We were surprised that in most cases someone witnessed the violence.”
Most of the victims said they talked with someone about the worst incidents. Those who did always chose a friend. Only a small number spoke with an adult as well.
The authors recommend that more information be available for teens on how to help victimized friends. Current programs give specific do’s and don’ts for teens after an episode has ended, but more details may be needed on ways to respond immediately.
Another factor related to teen victims’ willingness to talk about the violence was their view of it. If they considered the perpetrator angry or jealous—as opposed to controlling or protective—they were more likely to discuss the violence.
“This could mean that victims may be more frightened by angry and jealous forms of violence than by controlling forms,” Dr. Black said.
Alternately, angry and jealous forms may be viewed as more normal or justified and thus less embarrassing to discuss. The type and severity of violence and emotional hurt were not related to talking about it, the researchers found.
Drs. Black and Saunders collaborated with Richard Tolman from the University of Michigan, Arlene Weisz from Wayne State University and Michelle Callahan of 360 Strategies in New York City.
— Mark Permenter
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