School counselors lack training in teen dating violence

A nation-wide assessment of school counselors concludes that most do not have the proper training to help victims of teen dating violence. The August 2012 issue of  Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published the study which looked at the knowledge, training, perceptions, and practices of school counselors in dealing with teen dating violence incidents (described in the report as Adolescent Dating Violence ADV).

A questionnaire was sent to 550 members of the American School Counselors Association. From the 305 responses (58%), the report found:

“A majority of the school counselors reported that they did not have a protocol in their schools to respond to an incident of ADV (81.3%). Additionally, the majority (90%) of counselors reported that in the past 2 years, training to assist survivors of teen dating abuse has not been provided to personnel in their schools, their school did not conduct periodic student surveys that include questions on teen dating abuse behaviors (83%), and their school did not have a committee that meets periodically to address health and safety issues that include teen dating abuse (76%).”

While many schools educated teens about healthy relationships (68%) and where to report an incident of dating violence (54%), only 42% said their schools dealt with dating abuse prevention or had resources clearly posted (25%). When faced with an incident of dating abuse, most of the counselors (81.3%) had no protocol or procedure on how to respond.

Counselors were asked to respond to eight true/false questions about teen dating abuse facts including:

Patterns of dating violence behavior often start in early adolescence and
carry through into adult relationships. (True) (97% responded correctly)

Dating abuse can lead to risky sexual behaviors that can result in unintended
pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV infections. (True) (90% responded correctly)

Abuse in a dating relationship occurs more commonly in students from a
lower socioeconomic background compared with students from higher
socioeconomic backgrounds. (True) (only 25% responded correctly)

ADV occurs more frequently among racial and ethnic minorities as compared
with whites. (True) (only 15% responded correctly)

Most shockingly, the report concluded that schools do not recognize teen dating violence as a significant problem! The statistics are clear: 1 in 3 teens have reported verbal, physical or sexual abuse by a dating partner. The report itself estimates 9% to 34% of teens experience dating violence.

It is up to all of us to ensure that our schools use every resource available to educate teens AND educators about teen dating abuse. Check with your school to see if teen dating abuse is addressed adequately and whether your counselors are trained on how to respond.

To read the entire report click on the link:

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