Boys Victims of Dating Violence, Too

Jim Liebelt

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Contrary to what many people may think, teenage boys commonly suffer dating violence -- including physical and emotional abuse, a new U.S. government study finds.

The study focused on teens considered to be at high risk for dating violence -- those who had suffered or witnessed violence at home or in their neighborhoods.

It turned out that boys were about as likely as girls to say they'd been victims of some form of dating violence. The pattern was also corroborated by girls' reports: They commonly admitted to being perpetrators.

"To the average person, this is probably surprising," said Monica Swahn, a professor of epidemiology at Georgia State University who has studied dating violence.

"Parents and pediatricians may underestimate how common dating violence is, and how often boys are victims," said Swahn, who was not involved in the study.

A number of national surveys have found that U.S. girls are far more often the victims of dating violence than boys -- particularly in terms of physical injuries.

But the new study conflicts with those findings, said lead researcher Dennis Reidy, of the division of violence prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"One potential reason is that we looked at a high-risk population, and not a nationally representative sample," Reidy said.

Regardless, he added, the study points out that boys can be victims, too.

"We don't want to get locked into the mindset that boys are always the perpetrators and girls are always the victims," Reidy said.

The findings are based on more than 1,100 kids ages 11 to 17 who were surveyed about a wide range of dating violence. They were asked not only about physical abuse, but also how often they'd been sexually victimized -- including having a boyfriend or girlfriend pressure them to have sex, or spread "sexual rumors" about them.

The researchers also asked about psychological and emotional abuse -- like being yelled at, threatened or called names.

Overall, almost 11 percent of boys said they'd been physically abused by a dating partner at least three times. That compared with slightly less than 8 percent of girls. And a similar percentage of girls and boys -- around 4 percent -- said they'd been injured.

When it came to psychological abuse, 29 percent of boys and almost 34 percent of girls said they'd been victimized at least three times. Slightly more than 14 percent of boys and 12 percent of girls said they'd been sexually victimized that many times.

Reidy said more research is needed to confirm the current findings, which were published online Jan. 29 in the journal Pediatrics. But for now, he said, adults need to be aware that dating violence affects girls and boys -- and it starts at an early age.

"Kids are dating at an age that's younger than you might think," Reidy said, "and dating violence is an issue much earlier than you might expect."

Source: HealthDay