Teen Dating Violence Up In Recession

Whitley-Ann told CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller she experienced dating abuse from her 18-year-old ex-boyfriend. CBS

A new study says teen dating violence is on the rise -- and it may have something to do with the recession.

On The Early Show, as part of the special series called "CBS Reports: Children of the Recession," CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reported that a study released by Liz Claiborne and The Family Violence Prevention Fund shows an increase in teen dating violence -- directly tied to the economic downturn.

The study says nearly one-in-three teens reports being the victim of verbal, physical or sexual abuse. Nearly one-in-four says they've been harassed by e-mail or text messaging. Nearly half of the respondents report being controlled, threatened or pressured to do things against their will.

"Families in economic distress are themselves experiencing higher rates of violence," said Kiersten Stewart, of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, "and teens in those same households are also experiencing much higher rates of dating violence in their own relationships."

And that's the case for 18-year-old Whitley-Ann, whose last name CBS News is not disclosing. She told Miller she was abused by her former boyfriend.

"He bruised me. I was bruised for days," she said. "I didn't want people to not like him, because I knew I was going back to him."

And like many victims in the study, Whitley-Ann was too scared to tell anyone close to her.

"A lot of people don't know when they're in an abusive relationship," Whitley-Ann says. "They're in denial, like I was."

Whitley-Ann has been free of her abuser for six months, and plans to attend college this fall.

But for those still in abusive relationships, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton offered some tips on The Early Show Wednesday on ways to get help.

She recommended talking to someone close to you, such as a friend, a guidance counselor, a parent, or a relative.

"If you don't tell anyone, you can't get help," Ashton said.

The hope, Ashton explained, is that the person will do an intervention or tell someone else what is going on.

The second tip for teens is to not get in a dangerous situation.

"You have to anticipate what logistical situations could arise that could be actually compromising and endangering ... your health," she said. " ... You always have to prepare for the worst-case scenario."

Ashton said teens shouldn't go anywhere alone: Don't go into the woods, into a car with someone or into someone's home where there's no one else around.

Another thing to remember, Ashton noted, is to not blame yourself.

"People who are victims of domestic violence are victims," she said. "They didn't ask for it. It's not their fault. And that sense of blame can really add to the problem."

Ashton said parents should also be on the lookout for their kids' safety.

She said signs of trouble can be subtle, such as your child suddenly wearing inappropriate clothing. "If it's warm weather, and suddenly you're (seeing your child) wearing sweat pants and long sleeve shirts, that might be a warning sign," Ashton said.

She added that drastic changes in behavior, such as crying all the time or withdrawing from friends and family, may also be red flags.

Ashton also suggested keeping the lines of communication open between parents and children.

"We need to stress to everyone that, starting at an early age, the key to a healthy relationship is mutual respect. ... (But) any relationship where there is violence and hurt and shame, whether it's emotional or physical, is not a healthy one."

Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen pointed out that the abuse also needs to be reported.

Ashton agreed, saying parents need to educate children from an early age about abusive situations and what they can do about them.



Teen Dating Violence Resources

MADE (Moms and Dads for Education)
The movement has thousands of members who join MADE to make a difference for their kids and ensure that there is education in the schools on teen dating violence and abuse. It was started by Liz Claiborne partnering with the National Association of Attorneys General and the National Foundation of Women Legislators.

MADE fact sheet

RESPECT is a campaign by Macy's to ensure that parents and coaches have the resources they need to talk to their kids about teen dating violence and abuse.

RESPECT fact sheet

Both Web sites offer significant resources and help for parents who don't know what to do.
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