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Letter - Teens need to hear about healthy relationships

To the editor:

In the wake of the Steubenville, Ohio football rape scandal, it is more important than ever to address the issue of teen dating violence and sexual assault.

We know that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The age group most at risk is girls ages 16 to 24. There aren't a lot of courses in your average high school that address human sexuality or relationships, and not specifically how they apply to teens. But it's not just a school's job to talk to teens about intimate partner violence, parents also need to have conversations to their teens about dating violence and sexual assault. Unfortunately, 81 percent of parents either believe that dating violence and sexual assault aren't an issue for teens or don't know if it's an important issue.

A comparison of intimate partner violence rates between teens and adults reveals that teens are at higher risk of intimate partner abuse (almost triple the national average for adults) and 58 percent of rape victims report being raped between the ages of 12 to 24.

Most teenagers don't turn to their parents or teachers for help; rather they talk to friends about whatever is bothering them. Like adult cases of abuse, teens most often don't recognize a pattern of violence, rather they view the abuse as one isolated incident. However, research shows us that the severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence. What a teenager learns in this stage of life and development is that violence is OK and that keeping the abuse silent is OK, too. This is why it is so important to have a meaningful conversation with teenagers about healthy emotional and sexual relationships.

Jenna Payne, crime victim advocate

Someplace Safe

Alexandria, MN