Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Rise of Relationship Abuse among High School and College Students in America

By Sheri E Ragland

On Sept. 13, 2014, 48 Hours aired a revised segment called “Loved to Death” about a high school couple that experienced breakup violence. The breakup ended in a murder on July 3, 2011, that no one saw coming. Not even the victim. The victim’s ex-boyfriend suffered from deep depression as diagnosed by a doctor, after the breakup. Tension between the victim and her ex-boyfriend existed whenever they attended the same functions and parties. However, it was the unexpected visit by the victim to check on the state of her ex-boyfriend at his home out of concern and at the request of his mother. The visit that no one knew about led to the victim’s death. The behavior and physical abuse of the ex-boyfriend that occurred after the breakup were not expected by the victim or friends and family. Therefore, there were many questions about the breakup and the death of the victim that led to a local campaign that went national how to handle breakups and to encourage healthy relationships among high school students. As a result, The Lauren Dunne Astley Memorial Fund was established in 2014 by Lauren Dunne Astley’s parents to raise awareness in three key areas: Effective Teen Relationships, Violence Prevention, the Arts and Community Service.

According to No More Organization (2015), 12.7 million individuals suffer from a form of domestic violence, including sexual assault in the course of one year. Females between 16 and 24 have the highest rate of relationship abuse, which is three times the national average (Love Is Respect, 2015). Twenty-six percent of teenage girls have been subjected to continuous verbal abuse in a relationship (Love Is Respect, 2015). Domestic violence and sexual assault are more prevalent today than ever before, especially among young people. Domestic violence includes dating violence, relationship violence, breakup violence and abuse. One out of every three teenagers has experienced a form of threats or domestic violence from their boyfriend or girlfriend within one year (Liz Claiborne, Inc. & Family Violence Prevention Fund, 2014).

Young people who are victims of domestic violence are more likely to become unhealthy individuals with emotional challenges and engage in abusive relationships (CDC, 2014b). Society has sanctioned norms that promote unhealthy relationships that result from dysfunctional families, unhealthy beliefs and values, negative music, movies, videos, peer pressure, online dating sites and social media to name a few. These social norms depict women as sexual objects of men’s affections through control, abuse and often violence. The worst apart about it is that society continues to glamorize it, while statistics continue to show an increase in domestic violence cases in high school and college students. Why does society continue to sanction behaviors that destroy the self-worth of an individual as well as their life at the expense of media and a billion dollar entertainment industry that glamorizes abuse mostly against women? Many organizations have taken a stand to campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault, such as Safe Horizon, Love Is Respect, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many others. No More Organization launched a campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault one year ago in March 2014 targeting college students, individuals and organizations to raise awareness. No More Organization launched a campaign in April 2015 to raise awareness on sexual assault.

In conjunction with No More Organization’s campaigns against domestic violence, it is important to raise awareness of relationship abuse among young people. Here are seven warning signs of relationship abuse that young people including parents should recognize and act on. They are:

  1. Individual fears his/her partner
  2. Individual’s partner belittles and humiliates him/her often
  3. Individual’s partner criticizes him/her and puts him/her down often
  4. Individual is embarrassed for friends and family to see his/her relationship
  5. Individual’s partner does not acknowledge his/her opinions and accomplishments
  6. Individual’s partner blames him/her for their abusive behavior
  7. Individual’s partner treats him/her as a sex object with little or no thought for your feelings

According to the CDC (2014a), symptoms of domestic abuse include:

  1. Individuals experiencing depression and or anxiety
  2. Individuals engaging in substance abuse
  3. Individuals experiencing behavioral changes
  4. Individuals contemplating thoughts of suicide

If these are signs and symptoms you are dealing with and you don’t know what to do, you can get help by contacting Safehorizon anonymously at 800.621.HOPE FREE (4673) and an experienced staff member will listen and assist you. Also, you can look up the website for more information. You may not experience abuse. But, you may know someone who does. There are other resources that can assist you located on the CDC’s website, such as “Teen Dating Violence.” If you interested in raising awareness at your high school or college, visit the websites, such as No More Organization and Lauren Dunne Astley Memorial Fund. These are only some of the many resources available about domestic violence among young people.

Domestic violence is increasing among young people. It is time to take a stand against it and talk about the warning signs and what constitutes a healthy relationship starting with high school and college students now to raise awareness and to stop a growing trend that devalues the self-worth of individuals, especially young women. Domestic violence and abuse is never acceptable. Therefore, we as a society must stop relationship abuse now!


CBS News. 2015. 48 Hours: Loved to death.

CBN. January 8, 2015. Protect your health! – part IV. Virginia Beach, VA: The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2014a. Teen dating violence.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2014b. Understanding teen dating violence: Fact sheet

Lauren Dunne Astley Memorial Fund. 2014.

Liz Claiborne, Inc. & Family Violence Prevention Fund. 2014. Teen dating abuse 2009 key topline findings.

Love Is Respect. 2015. Dating abuse statistics.

No More Organization. 2015.

Safehorizon. 2015. Domestic violence victims: Get help.

Stanton, Glenn T. 2011. “Divorce rate in the church – As high as the world?” Focus on the Family Findings. Focus on the Family.