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U.S. Teens Face Dating Risks

Few parents can imagine their teenage son or daughter in an abusive relationship. But researchers say that a surprisingly large number of teen-agers are, and that dating violence is just one of many health risks that teens face every day. CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports.

To spread awareness about these topics, The Journal of the American Medical Women's Association has devoted an entire summer issue to these risks. A 1997 study surveyed over 900 high school students about physical and sexual violence while dating.

They found that 27 percent of the teens claimed to have actually punched their dates and 15 percent said they had been the victims of a closed fist.

Researchers say that it's hard to be certain if these numbers accurately reflect the full extent of the violence. Many adolescents keep their abuse to themselves or tell a friend who is sworn to secrecy.

Parents and doctors are often the last to be told by teens who fear their disapproval. Researchers say that parental reaction is the main reason many teens don't seek information or treatment for their sexual health.

In a 1997 survey, 15 percent of adolescents reported that they would not seek treatment for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) if they had to inform their parents. But if they could be assured confidentiality, 65 percent said they would seek care.

Researchers say many teens feel uncomfortable talking to their family doctor about STDs, pregnancy or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, for fear that their parents will find out.

The purpose of the article is to alert doctors to the problem, so that they ask and educate young patients about possible health problems.

Doctors suggest that parents talk to their children, encouraging an honest relationship.

For more information, see the Web site of the American Women's Medical Association.

Reported By Dr. Emily Senay