For many victims, these types of assaults are not being reported because the victims are not recognizing them as assaults but, instead, are perceiving them as part of normal cultural mores.
According to two sources, Love Is Respect.org, a website specifically geared toward teens and young adults and a program of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), one in three adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
Long-term health effects for those in violent relationships include substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence. Hlavka, assistant professor of criminology and law studies at Marquette University, led the study that included Patricia’s experience.
“They grab you, touch your butt and try to, like, touch you in the front, and run away, but it’s OK, I mean…
I never think it’s a big thing because they do it to everyone.” This is how Patricia, 13, refers to boys in her school.
During an interview for a study on sexual assaults, she describes these unwelcomed touchings and grabbings as normal, commonplace behaviors.
Normalizing this type of behavior at such a young age has become worrisome to many in the field of teen dating violence and domestic violence because it also has long-term health consequences.
It was designed to move the discussion from the question of why young women do not report harassment and abuse to the topic of how violence is produced, maintained and normalized among youths.
Hlavka says she felt that the results of the study, which will be published in the June issue of , were disturbing yet also not altogether surprising.
“The young women in the study experienced acts of harassment and abuse as a daily, common occurrence,” says Hlavka.
“Heterosexual sex is often portrayed as ‘working a yes out’ of a girl (in other words, coercion until she acquiesces) through actions that often resemble harassment and stalking.
That this is seen as heterosexual relating should shock us into action.” Educating teens on what constitutes teen dating violence is half the battle, says Nabilah Talib, director of Wellness Services, which manages the Sexual Violence and Support Services (SVSS) program for YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.