Data finds one-third of Utah teens report dating abuse

SALT LAKE CITY — According to the Utah Department of Health, February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. And on Valentine’s Day, the department released a report which found one-third of Utah teens struggle with unhealthy and even abusive dating relationships.

The data comes from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, where 33.8 percent of teens reported experiencing some form of an unhealthy dating relationship.

Of that group, 26.5 percent were verbally emotionally harmed by their dating partner and one out of every 11 was forced by their dating partner to do sexual things they did not want to do. Females were more likely to be victims — almost twice as many teen girls were physically hurt on purpose by their dating partner.

Dating violence or abuse can be verbal, emotional, physical or sexual, according to the department. And experiencing it as a teenager can put teens at risk for “repeat victimization” throughout their entire lives, according to men’s engagement specialist Marty Liccardo with the department.

According to to the Utah Department of Health, research has shown teens who experience dating violence or abuse are more likely to be depressed, do poorly in school, use drugs or alcohol, and are more likely to have eating disorders.

Some teens, the report warns, may even think about or attempt suicide if they do not receive appropriate help and treatment.

The Utah Department of Health’s website lists warning signs that may accompany violent relationships for both victims and abusers. For victims, warning signs can include sudden changes in appearance, avoiding contact with family and friends, and sudden changes in behavior. Warning signs for abusers can include sudden and drastic mood swings, acting jealous and controlling, and constantly checking on their dating partner.

See the department’s full list of warning signs here. To read more of the results of the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, click here.

If you or someone you know is in a violent relationship, you can call the Utah Domestic Violence Link Line at 1-800-897-5465 or the Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 1-888-421-1100. Both hotlines are free and available 24/7.

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