Teen dating violence continues to rise across the United States. February is recognized as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and local officials who work with teens want to get the word out that Montgomery County is following the national trend.

Nationally, one in 10 high school students experienced physical dating violence in 2013. In 2011, 11.3 percent of Indiana high school students reported they had been purposely hit, slapped or physically hurt by their boyfriends or girlfriends.

The Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau deals with teen violence. The Teen Court program frequently receives referrals from probation officers. YSB Executive Director Karen Branch said she sees teen violence statistics increasing.

“We are seeing a rise in physical aggression for youth using it as a way of dealing with a variety of issues,” Branch said.

Dating violence or abuse can occur in dating relationships between people from pre-teen through adulthood. However, studies have shown that teens, ages 13-18, are at high risk as they are beginning to explore dating and intimacy. This age group is at risk because statistics have shown they are the least likely group to disclose warning signs or abuse to a friend, family member or trusted adult and especially to report dating violence to the police.

A basic definition of teen dating violence or abuse includes a pattern of actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual and emotional abuse caused by an adolescent against a dating partner. Abuse may include insults, coercion, social sabotage, sexual harassment, threats and/or acts of physical or sexual abuse.

Abusive teens use this pattern of violent and coercive behavior to gain power and maintain control over the dating partner.

In 2014, there were 19 battery charges dealt with in Teen Court compared to 12 the year before. Montgomery County Probation records show that in 2014 there were seven cases of intimidation, two cases of harassment and 46 battery charges.

Getting teens to admit to being abused by their dating partner is not easy. The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports only 31 percent of teens who are abused will tell someone.

“I just think it is important to make the public aware that there is a domestic violence problem beginning as young as the teen years,” Branch said.

More information regarding teen dating violence can be found at http://www.stand4respect.org.

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