Nikkia Rowe, the principal of Renaissance Academy High School in West Baltimore, teaches a dating-abuse-prevention curriculum to ninth-graders.
Unhealthy relationship behaviors often start early and lead to a lifetime of abuse.
That's according to Choose Respect, a national initiative to help adolescents and young teens age 11 to 14 form healthy relationships to prevent dating abuse.
The four-page questionnaire was sent in the 2015-16 year to 750 randomly selected public-school principals, with a 54 percent response rate.
Although a majority of high-school principals (57 percent) had assisted a teen dating-violence victim in the past two years, more than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) said they lacked formal training, and a majority (62 percent) reported that teachers and staff in their schools hadn’t been recently trained, either.
De Leon, who has seen her peers being physically and emotionally abusive to one another, now recognizes the red flags—and she wants more support for victims from the adults in her school building.“I think we have to start with the principals at the schools, because they’re the leaders,” she said.
“That way we can have trust in them [and] come to them if we’re in that situation.”Lindsay Stawick, who directs the Domestic Violence Network’s youth programming, said most inquiries for dating-violence-prevention training come from teachers—at De Leon’s high school, for its part, it was a social worker.
Youth from low-income backgrounds, those from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and LGBTQ students are at the greatest risk of experiencing such harm. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that adolescents who experienced teen dating violence were more likely than those who didn’t to report being bullied on school grounds and missing school due to feeling unsafe.
Victims of dating abuse are also more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and to consider suicide, than their non-abused peers.
“Ultimately, those patterns that we see in schoolhouses continue into adulthood …
Dating violence is controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination.
“I think that’s lack of insight on the principals’ part,” Khubchandani argued, suggesting the principals are unwilling to acknowledge students’ role in helping their peers cope with and prevent dating abuse.