Friday, June 15, 2007

Dating Violence and Sexual Assault Increase Suicide Risk

Here is a new study that gives us another reason to be proactive about preventing abusive relationships in young people -- a study of 8,080 public high school students in New York City finds that females who recently experienced dating violence and males who experienced sexual assault some time in their lives are more likely to report suicide attempts than their counterparts without similar histories of violence.

“Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Suicide Attempts Among Urban Teenagers” is published in the June 2007 edition of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. In the survey, 9.6 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males reported a lifetime history of sexual assault -- first of all, those are heartbreaking percentages all by themselves.

Then to the dating violence itself -- 10.6 percent of females and 9.5 percent of males said they had experienced dating violence in the past year. Dating violence was defined as being hit, slapped or hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Adolescent girls who reported dating violence were 60 percent more likely to report one or more suicide attempts in the past year, the survey found, and males who reported sexual assault were four times as likely to have attempted suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents.

(An interesting twist is that a history of sexual assault in females and a history of dating violence in males did not increase the rates of attempted suicide.)

The study did not assess why dating violence is associated with suicide attempts, but the authors note that other studies have found that teenagers who are depressed are more likely to enter into violent relationships, and that dating violence can lead to mental health issues.

Researchers surveyed 8,080 students age 14 and older in 87 New York City public high schools.

This is why the new National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline,, is such an important and valuable resource. If you have not taken the opportunity to view the web-based portion of the resource, please do so. It offers live-chat from 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM Central Time as well as a toll-free 24 hour hotline at 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453.

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