Despite research showing that 1 in 4 US teens have experienced some form of abuse in a dating relationship, according to a new study, the majority of high schools don't have procedures or trained staff to deal with the issue. In order to assess if high schools are prepared to address incidents of dating violence, researchers surveyed members of the American School Counselor Association, in the first national assessment of school counselors’ practices and perceptions of adolescent dating violence prevention.
According to the study, “Adolescent Dating Violence: A National Assessment of School Counselors’ Perceptions and Practices,” in the August 2012 Pediatrics:
- The majority of school counselors (81.3 percent) reported that they did not have a protocol in their schools to respond to an incident of dating violence;
- Ninety percent of school counselors reported that in the past two years, there had been no staff training to assist survivors of dating violence, and their school did not have a committee to address health and safety issues including dating violence.
- The majority of school counselors (61 percent) reported that they had assisted a survivor of dating violence in the past two years.
Researchers also asked questions about dating violence to assess the counselors' level of knowledge about the issue. On average, about half of the questions were answered accurately.
According to the study, the main barriers identified by school staff in assisting survivors of dating violence were lack of formal training and lack of time. School counselors also perceived that dating violence is a minor issue and that even if they want to help, parents might not approve of the school’s interference.
At the same time, the researchers also found that school personnel who received formal training perceived dating violence to be a serious problem, and were significantly more likely to assist survivors of dating violence.