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Jan. 18, 2013

Severe abuse at home linked to dating violence

Young urban black women who are exposed to severe abuse within their families are much more likely to be victims of dating violence, according to a study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

Angie Kennedy said efforts to prevent dating violence should include discussion of what might be going on in the victim’s home.

“There is a lot of focus on trying to prevent dating violence for high school students, which is an important goal,” said Kennedy, MSU associate professor of social work. “But if you’re sitting in a group talking about conflict with your dating partner and meanwhile have all these things going on within your family and no one’s addressing it, that’s a problem.”

Youths exposed to violence in their families may begin to understand it as a normal part of life, according to the study, which appears in the research journal Violence Against Women.

Kennedy and colleagues surveyed 180 female high school students in a poor Chicago community and found that:

• 85 percent of them witnessed domestic abuse in their homes, with nearly half (49 percent) reporting an adult with an injury related to the abuse
• 72 percent were physically abused themselves
• 29 percent were sexually abused.

Dating violence was strongly associated with experiencing severe levels of these forms of family abuse, the study found.

Extreme family violence also was linked to exposure to prostitution, albeit it on a limited scale. That exposure mostly involved the participants being asked if they wanted to exchange sex for money, not actively engaging in prostitution, Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s co-researchers were Deborah Bybee and Gretchen Archer from MSU and Shanti Kulkarni from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.