Teen Dating Violence Awareness: The School Counselor's Role
Teen Dating Violence: School Counselor’s Role and Prevalence in Schools
Teen dating violence occurs in nearly 1.5 million high school students across the country. Ultimately, prevention and intervention are sought to stop teen dating violence (TDV) before it begins. At the school level, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) suggests that interventions at the school-level combined with those in the classroom produced ideal outcomes in lower levels of dating conflicts and sexual harassment. School counselors play an invaluable role in providing support and resources for their students who may be in situations that cause them some form of harm.
Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment. Any school that receives federal funding must respond to all instances of TDV, otherwise the school would be liable for lawsuits from victims. Schools become liable for the teen dating conflict incidents when the:
- Student has been sexually harassed
- School has knowledge of the harassment
- Harassment was severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive
- Harassment causes student to be deprived of access to educational opportunities
- School is deliberately indifferent to the harassment
School Counselor’s Role
School administrators including school counselors are required by law to respond and report in an effective manner, immediately upon knowledge of the incident. Some states have mandatory reporting laws that require the involvement of law enforcement or child protection agencies. Regardless of mandatory reporting, documentation should be prompt, thorough, and impartial. For reported incidences, a school counselor’s role involves working with administration to minimize additional trauma from investigation. While every student has a right to confidentiality, a school counselor must weigh the request of confidentiality with the seriousness of the allegation, age of victim, number of other complaints against the harasser, and the alleged harasser’s right to receive this information. If there is an insistence on confidentiality, the school could seek other steps to limit the effects of the harassment and seek preventative measures.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Adolescent Dating Violence: A National Assessment of School Counselors’ Perceptions and Practices indicates that 66 percent of responding school counselors report that their school educates their students on health dating relations, but are less likely to education about TDV. Only 10 percent of school counselor respondents had received recent (within two years) training on how to assist TDV victims. In addition to, more than ¾ of school counselors reported that they do not have a protocol in place to respond to a TDV incident. Seemingly, those who have a protocol report less impediments to assist TDV survivors. School counselors within this assessment identify themselves as the main school-associated personnel to assist survivors of dating violence - more so than a survivor's own peers.
Based on this national assessment by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the school counselor’s role in TDV requires the following skills:
- Be educated to assist with students who are victims to dating violence
- Encourage students to report violence to school counselor through a cultivation of trust
- Be involved in developing protocols for responding to TDV incidents
- Work with school personnel to identify and support survivors of dating abuse
- Work with all school personnel in developing skills to assist these survivors
- Develop appropriate dating abuse policies with school administrator
- Provide referrals to appropriate legal authorities
Prevalence in Schools Across the U.S.
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) managed by the Division of Adolescent and School Health, for 2013, 73.9 percent of students surveyed had reported that they had dated or went out with someone during the 12 months pre-survey. Of these students, 10.3 percent report having been hit, slammed into something, or injured with an object of weapon by their dating partner. Dating violence was highest among white freshman females. From 20 large urban school districts, the prevalence of TDV ranged from 7.4 to 16.8 percent, slightly higher than the rate across 38 states. Sexual dating violence was reported for 10.4 percent of these students and was highest among white freshman females. Sexual dating violence is defined as being kissed, touched, or physically forced to engage in sexual intercourse when they did not want to by someone that they were dating or going out with more than once.
Teen dating violence has been shown to produce long term and long-lasting effects for survivors. Poor school performance, drug and alcohol abuse, development of eating disorders, depression, and suicidal intent are defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Carolyn Stone, Ed.D, chair for the American School Counselor Association’s Ethics Committee. Adolescents who are victims of TDV during high school are at a higher risk for mistreatment during college. Intimate partner violence is associated with the development and worsening of mental health conditions that include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, substance abuse, and severe and persistent mental illnesses as described in research published in the Current Opinion in Pediatrics journal.
While there are several developed protocols for adult intimate violence in the U.S., school counselors report on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ national assessment that they do not have training to assist victims of TDV and did not know that abuse in these relationship occurs more with specific populations than in others. Focus on adolescents and dating violence is based upon the high prevalence of intimate partner violence for girls and women between the ages of 16 and 24 - what is triple the average percentage. Furthermore, violent behaviors can begin between the ages of 12 and 18, according to Love Is Respect, a domestic violence advocacy organization. Addressing intimate partner, physical, and sexual dating violence during onset adolescent ages could help promote healthy relationships in adulthood.
Resources for Training and Continuing Education
- Dating Matters is an online free course for educators, school personnel, youth mentors, and others who seek to improve teen health. Highlighted within the course is a definition of teen dating violence, how to prevent it, interactive exercises, and provided information from experts.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - National Center for Injury Control and Prevention compiled a teen dating fact sheet filled with definitions of different types of abuse, how the CDC approaches prevention, and resources for more information.
- The Urban Institute conducted a comprehensive research project on the types of violence and abuse experiences that youth encounter through use of technology and its impact on their lives.
- Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence has compiled a list of different healthy relationship curriculum and approaches to teen dating abuse, sexual assault, and stalking.
- Futures Without Violence believes that healthy relationship education should begin in middle school by providing the Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships initiative to prevent teen dating violence and abuse beginning at age 11.
- The Family & Youth Services Bureau offers a toolkit to effectively incorporate adolescent relationship abuse prevention into an existing pregnancy prevention program
- Preventing, Assessing, and Intervening in Teenage Dating Abuse is a toolkit for training provided by the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments that explores healthy and unhealthy relationships, strategies for assessment of dating abuse, guidance on policies for schools, and resources for key support staff.
- Break the Cycle created and published a conversation guide for adults to speak with youth about dating violence through the development of skills to create positive and healthy relationships with peers and dating partners.