Teen Dating Violence

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County Effort Fights Teen Dating Violence

By Grace Rubenstein

(Adam Foster: Flickr)

(Adam Foster: Flickr)

We think of domestic violence as something that happens among adults. But as some young survivors from Contra Costa County recently told me, abuse is also alarmingly common between teen boyfriends and girlfriends.

Evidence has been growing that it starts even younger than we previously imagined. A study published in March surveyed more than 1,400 seventh graders of diverse races. More than one in three reported being psychologically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend within the past six months. Nearly one in three reported experiencing physical dating violence within the same timeframe.

Their average age? 12.

The study was commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Blue Shield of California.

Revelations like that are slowly making the long-hidden problem of teen dating abuse more visible – especially at schools, ground zero for teen romance. Shocking events like the murder of 17-year-old Cindi Santana, stabbed by her ex-boyfriend on campus at her Los Angeles high school last September, have put the issue more on the radar. Continue reading

Teenagers, Love and Abuse

By Grace Rubenstein

(AllenSkye: Flickr)

(AllenSkye: Flickr)

This is not the stuff of puppy love.

When Madhuri Malhotra was a younger teen in Richmond, it was normal for her high school boyfriend to call her a b—- and cuss her out.

“He would cheat on me, and he would make it so that I was in the wrong. I would feel bad and I would be the one saying sorry,” she told me recently. “Everywhere I went I was so depressed, because I felt like I was doing something wrong,”

When she finally learned the definition of verbal and emotional abuse, “I was mind boggled,” said Malhotra, who is now 18. “I tried to get out of it, but then my heart wouldn’t let me, so then I’d go back in it.”

The same kinds of violence that we see in abusive adult relationships … also commonly happen between teens.

Malhotra’s epiphany about abuse was lucky, almost serendipitous. While job-hunting via a Richmond city agency, she found part-time work as a youth peer educator with the nonprofit STAND! for Families Free of Violence, based in Concord. The job training opened her eyes.

Continue reading