Violence among people who are dating causes more than 2,000 deaths a year, and 70 percent of the victims are female. Nearly three in ten women and one in ten men in the U.S. have experienced physical violence, rape, or stalking by a partner or former partner. Oftentimes, violence in dating relationships begins in the teen years. According to the CDC, one-quarter of adolescents are verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by a dating partner each year and one in ten students nationwide report being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.
Now that there’s more recognition that dating violence begins early in life, more public health experts are talking about how to better protect someone who’s afraid of being hurt. Today, 44 states and Washington, D.C. allow people in dating relationships to get protection orders. But there are no laws in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, or Utah. States should consider other services for victims, too, such as legal assistance and shelters, and protection orders should protect both victims and their families.
Policies regarding intimate partner violence are thorny, Hamburg notes. Some states allow a teen to obtain a restraining order without parental permission; others require schools to teach violence prevention. Some laws recognize same-sex partner violence, while others don’t. “Here’s a situation where there’s recognition that some policies are better than others,” he says. “There are a lot of different pieces to this issue.” Under the Affordable Care Act, most private insurance plans must cover screening and counseling for victims of intimate partner violence with no out-of-pocket costs to the patient.
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