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Teens Victimized by Dating Violence Often Have Difficult Pasts

THURSDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Teens victims of dating violence are likely to have suffered other forms of violence, such as sexual violence and child abuse, according to a new study.

Interviews with a national sample of 1,680 youth aged 12 to 17 revealed that every victim of dating violence reported it wasn't the first time they had been victimized, the researchers at the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center said.

Sexual violence and child abuse were the most common other types of mistreatment experienced by teen dating violence victims.

More than half of teen dating violence victims had a history of some form of child abuse, with more than 40 percent of victims physically abused by a caregiver and nearly 70 percent having witnessed violence in their families.

The study also found that 60 percent of teen dating violence victims had also suffered at least one type of sexual victimization, with the most common types being verbal sexual harassment (30 percent), flashing by a peer (25 percent) and sexual assault (20 percent).

The researchers also found that youth who had been cyberbullied were three to four times more likely to be victims of teen dating violence than other youth.

The study appears online in a special issue of the journal Psychology of Violence. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Teen dating violence is often regarded as a stand-alone issue, but these findings show that it is more typically part of a pattern of multiple victimizations, the researchers said.

"We were genuinely surprised how interconnected teen dating violence turned out to be with other forms of victimization. We thought there would be overlap but had no idea that all dating violence victims are dealing with other forms of violence and abuse as well," lead author Sherry Hamby, a UNH Crimes Against Children Research Center research associate said in a UNH news release.

"We know that some youth are just generally more at risk for everything than other youth," Hamby said. "If they live in a violent family or violent neighborhood, they may not be able to avoid violence or know how to. If they've been hurt in the past, it may lower their self-esteem or impair their ability to protect themselves. 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."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about teen dating violence.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of New Hampshire, news release, Feb. 13, 2012

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