The 2011 CDC Youth Risk Surveillance Survey shows that 11.5 percent of Alabama high school students have suffered physical abuse or violence at the hands of a partner, significantly higher than the national statistics of 9.4 percent. According to the survey, 10.5 percent of high school girls in the state have been hit, slapped or kicked by a significant other, while a larger number of boys, 12.4 percent, have suffered the same types of abuse. That result wasn’t a surprise for Lila Sears, an outreach advocate for Daybreak, which serves domestic violence victims in Walker County.
“Most guys know they aren’t supposed to hit a girl,” Sears said. “But, for some reason, some girls think it’s OK to hit a guy.”
Alabama teens also suffer a higher risk of forced sexual activity, with 10.5 percent of students reporting being forced to engage in unwanted sexual activity, compared with just 8 percent nationwide. In this statistic, many more girls reported being victims, at 13.3 percent, while just 7.5 percent of teenage boys reported being victims of sexual assault.
These statistics make Alabama No. 11 in the country for dating violence and fourth in sexual assault among the states that participated in the 2011 survey.
Sears said that many of the early warning signs of domestic violence are romanticized by teenagers, things such as jealousy, control and possessiveness.,
“It doesn’t start as violence; who would keep going out with someone who hit them on the first date?” Sears said. “It starts out with jealousy, monopolizing time and energy, having to know where they are, texting or calling continuously or controlling what friends they have.”
Sears said teens should watch for those warning signs in a relationship, as well as a partner who tries to speed up the relationship or lock them into a commitment very quickly.
“It seems like it’s an issue for young people in that they have not learned what a healthy relationship looks like,” Sears said.
She said parents should also watch out for relationships that cause the teen to lose interest in friends, activities and hobbies and only devoting time and energy to the partner, as well as keeping an eye out for behaviors or interactions between the couple that make them uneasy.
“There is a lot of teenage behavior that is going to look funny to the parents,” Sears said. ‘But, if the teen starts to shut down, where they are still spending time with the person, but are no longer talking about them, that’s a warning sign.”