Originally posted on August 21, 2013
A recent survey found that abuse is common in teenagers’ relationships. The survey reports that one-third of both sexes reported physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in their relationships. It also found that a similar number of the teens were middle-school bullies:
In the new nationwide survey, which included 1,058 youths ages 14 to 20, 41% of girls and young women and 37% of boys and young men said they had been victims of dating abuse; 35% of girls and 29% of boys said they had physically, emotionally or sexually abused a partner, according to a news release from the association. Girls were more likely to say they had physically abused their partners; boys were “much more likely” to say they had sexually abused someone, the association says. But it did not provide specific numbers on those differences.
The survey also found that 29% of girls and 24% of guys said they had been both victims and abusers, in the same or different relationships.
The results stand in stark contrast to other studies about violence in teenage relationships. The article notes that “94% of abuse victims who contacted the National Dating Abuse Helpline were female and just 6% were male.” However, Katie Ray Jones, president of the dating abuse helpline and the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, acknowledged that girls are more likely to com forward than boys.
Carlos Cuevas, a researcher from Northeastern University-Boston offered another explanation:
But he says the details behind the gender findings in various studies are important. When girls are the aggressors, he says, “it tends to be low-level behaviors, light hitting, name calling, things like that. When you look at serious sexual and severe physical assault, we tend to see a bit more from the boys than the girls.”
Likewise, Dorothy Espelage, a researcher at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign presented this response:
“Without measures of fear, severity and injury, we need to be cautious” about interpreting the new nationwide survey results.
However, the results are consistent with other studies showing an equal rate of violence in teen relationships. We must be careful not to make excuses for girls’ violence simply because we assume that girls are less violence.
We give violent girls a pass in our society, and we tell boys that they are wimps and wusses if they fight back or complain. That makes it more likely that abusive girls go unnoticed rather than them not existing at all.
The survey is currently under review pending publication in a scientific journal. A fuller version of the survey may become available in the coming months. It may answer some of the questions asked in the article.