GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- New research from the American Psychological Association released today says one in three U.S. youths is a victim of dating violence.
The study collected information from 1,058 youths between 2011 and 2012 and is currently unpublished. It was presented at a convention in Hawaii earlier today.
According to a press release from the APA, 41 percent of girls and 37 percent of boys reported being victims of dating violence in a relationship.
Dating violence is defined in the study as physical, sexual or psychological/emotional violence in a relationship. The participants were 14-20 years old.
35 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys reported being the perpetrator of violence in a relationship at some point, which researches said showed girls were "almost equally as likely to be a perpetrator as a victim of violence."
"Girls were significantly more likely that boys to say they'd been victims of sexual dating violence," the release described.
29 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys reported being both a victim and a perpetrator at some point in their relationships.
Michele Ybarra was one author of the study.
"The significant overlap of victimization, perpetration and the different kinds of teen dating violence makes it important when designing prevention programs not to assume there are distinct victims and perpetrators," Ybarra said. "We need to think about the dynamics within relationships that may result in someone both perpetrating and being victimized by their partner; as well as the extent to which dating abuse may follow a teen from one relationship to another."
Counselors with Guilford County School System said they report any signs of teen dating violence to the proper authorities.
GCS often refers teenagers and families to Family Service of the Piedmont, where Shay Harger is an advocate.
Harger was not surprised to hear the numbers in this study. "Unfortunately we don't talk about dating violence enough," she insisted. "No matter what your age is, violence is not an acceptable way to solve problems in a relationship."
"In the beginning when you're new, a teenager exploring those first relationships," she explained, "Those kinds of things may seem like, 'Oh wow, I'm getting a lot of attention, they must really care about me'."
But Harger said parents must help decipher puppy love from potentially dangerous possessive behavior.
"If someone's texting you a lot, calling you a lot, trying to interact with you or talk to you on social media a lot. If they are controlling who you talk to or often you talk to people, restricting access to your family," she continued, "Those are all red flags."
So is pressuring to have sex or other signs of physical abuse, she explained.
Harger says open communication with your kids at all ages is the key to making sure teenagers choose healthy relationships.
Family Service of the Piedmont has a 24/7 crisis hotline for anyone of any age who wants to privately talk to someone about relationship abuse: 336-273-7273.