Stories about: Teen dating violence

Rise in sexual violence may be connected to exposure of children to pornographic images

A recent study revealed information that many parents may find troubling: nearly one in 10 young people have engaged in some type of sexual violence, by either coercing or forcing some type of sexual contact upon someone else. The study also suggests a connection between this behavior and being exposed to violent pornographic images. Michael Rich, MD, MPH, Boston Children’s media expert and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, shares his thoughts on what parents need to take away from this eye-opening report.

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Investigating a health risk behavior once thought to be restricted to adults, research published last week in JAMA Pediatrics found that nearly 10 percent of adolescents reported having forced sex with others or committing sexual violence. The most frequent age of first committing sexual violence was 16; 98 percent of those who first committed sexual violence at 15 or younger were male, but by 18 and 19, males (52 percent) and females (48 percent) were equally involved.

Those who reportedly committed sexual violence were significantly more likely to have used media that portrayed violent sex (hurting a partner while having sex), sexual situations (kissing, fondling and non-violent sex) and non-sexual violence (fighting, shooting and killing), as opposed to those who reported not committing sexual violence.

Research on the effects of violent media has shown that while “copycat” imitation of media may be rare, exposure to media violence shifts expectations about violence for many users who come to accept it as a means of resolving conflicts, are more likely to use it and are less likely to defend its victims.

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Warning signs for identifying teen dating violence

The suburb of Wayland, MA, was stripped of its quiet, small town image this week when an 18-year-old resident was found violently murdered in a local marsh. The suspected killer is another 18-year-old Wayland resident, and the victim’s former boyfriend.

“I did know [the victim] and the alleged assailant, and people are very, very sad and confused,” Wayland High Principal Pat Tutwiler told the Boston Herald. “I would say that there’s no such thing as a community where things like this don’t happen.”

Unfortunately, Principal Tutwiler’s quote is frighteningly accurate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every ten teenagers has experienced some form of dating violence.

With such high incidence of dating violence among young people, it’s very possible your child or someone they know is in an unhealthy relationship. To help keep teens safe, here are some important dating violence safety tips and facts for parents and teenagers from the Massachusetts Medical Society and Children’s Hospital Boston’s Center for Young Women’s Health.

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