Protecting Teen Girls from Violence

Approximately one out of every 10 high school teenage girls in the US reported experiencing physical violence from their dating partners in the previous year. This is not abstract—this could be happening to someone you know. A girl in your family or community may have recently been slapped, punched, kicked, pushed or grabbed, sexually coerced or raped, called names online, threatened, or screamed at in public—all by the person she is in an intimate relationship with.

Throughout February, ACOG and other organizations have been raising awareness as part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. It’s important that we educate young girls—and women—that unsafe relationships are not only about physical violence. Those who monitor cell phone use, stalk or humiliate online, or control their partner’s wardrobe, choice of friends, or contraceptive use are abusive.

As a father and grandfather, I want to do everything in my power to make sure my children and grandchildren are safe. This feeling extends into my practice as well. As an ob-gyn, I am in a unique position to reach out to my patients, letting them know my office is a safe environment in which they can seek help. ACOG recommends that physicians screen all women for intimate partner violence at periodic intervals. Recognizing violence in a teenage girl’s relationship can be especially critical because adolescent violence can lead to intimate partner violence when she grows up.

To get help for yourself or someone you love, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE. Teens can also learn about healthy relationships at loveisrespect.org or get teen-specific help through the Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474.