About 1 in 3 American high school girls will be abused by a boyfriend, says a federal report on intimate partner violence, according to the Detroit News. One in 4 high school boys commits dating violence, which usually begins with verbal abuse before escalating to arm twisting, punching and even rape, the report adds. Boys or girls may be the aggressors in an abusive dating relationship, but girls are more likely to be the victims of severe violence.
Teens are reluctant to tell anyone about abuse, experts say. That's all the more reason for parents to educate their girls about dating violence and its warning signs. Experts contend parents should encourage girls to have high self-esteem. “The teen or woman with a healthy self-esteem is the one who knows that she is fine in a relationship or not,” says Debra Ann Brodie, a Detroit psychologist and founder of Sisters and Daughters of Sheba, a HIV/AIDS prevention project that works to build self-esteem in young women. “The girls who get involved in sports, a competitive skill-based activity or hobby who can see her success are the girls who will be able to walk away after the first verbal insult or hit.” Barry Goldstein, an attorney and author of “Scared to Leave, Afraid to Stay,” says it's important for parents to know that the more young men their daughters date, the more likely they will date an abusive boy. He advises against allowing girls to date boys who are two or more years older, because the age difference increases the possibility the boys will be controlling. Also avoid boys who use alcohol or drugs, he warns, because those substances tend to intensify violence.