A new study from York University looks at dating violence among “high risk” young women and finds that a significant number of them are either victims of physical dating violence or are perpetrators of dating violence.
The rates of violence against women are shocking. According to Statistics Canada, half of all women in Canada have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, and 80 per cent of the victims of reported intimate partner violence are women. Young women are especially at risk. Women in their late 20s and early 30s have the highest rates of intimate partner violence, followed by women between 15 and 24 years of age.
But for young women facing any of a host of problems, from living on the street or being involved with either the justice system or Child Protective Services to being pregnant or parenting or dealing with a mental health issue, for these at risk women the prevalence rates for dating violence are especially high.
This is according to a recent study by Lauren E. Joly and Jennifer Connolly of York University’s Department of Psychology. The authors conducted a meta-analysis of 29 articles addressing dating violence among high risk young women and concluded that 34 per cent of women of this category report that they have been victims of physical dating violence and 45 per cent report perpetrating physical dating violence. This compares with young women not considered high risk where estimates are 15 to 20 per cent for victimization and 20 to 30 percent for perpetration.
“Dating violence is a key issue for young women as it is associated with many negative and long-lasting consequences,” say the study’s authors. A 2011 study showed that exposure to intimate partner violence was linked to psychological and social impacts lasting an average of 13 years after the incident.
Dating violence is said to involve acts of emotional, physical or sexual violence within a romantic or sexual relationship. The York University study found that women reported perpetrating dating violence for a number of reasons: “to feel in control and less vulnerable, because they felt disrespected or judged or because they had difficulty viewing their partners as individuals of equal worth,” according to the authors.
Many of the women reported staying with partners who perpetrated violence so as to avoid further violence from others or because they had children to protect, with vulnerability being a key thematic element in many cases.
The study showed that beyond the high risk factors a significant group of social relationship factors often played a self-reported role in the dating violence – factors such as exposure to marital violence, poor or low parental modeling, aggressive peers and living in violent neighborhoods.
Sexual violence and sexual harassment are about to become larger topics of discussion at least in Ontario where the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has recently announced funding support for six research projects to look into the reporting, responding to and preventing of sexual violence in Ontario.
The York University study was recently published in the journal Behavioral Science (Basel, Switzerland).