The Steubenville rape trial has highlighted the widespread problem of students not intervening to stop dating and sexual violence among peers. But awareness is growing.
The trial that started Wednesday in Steubenville, Ohio, has brought to light the disturbing regularity of dating and sexual violence among teenagers and how peers often stand idly by – or, in some cases, even post videos to Facebook.
In Ohio, a judge will decide if two teenage boys raped a 16-year-old girl after a party. The case garnered international attention when accusations arose about the boys being protected as members of a popular football team. Social media postings suggested that students knew of, and joked about, the alleged attack.
That scenario resonates far beyond Steubenville. Teen-dating abuse – physical, sexual, or psychological – affects 9 percent to 34 percent of adolescents in the United States, according to a recent article published online by the journal Pediatrics.
Fifteen states have now passed laws to require or urge schools to include teen dating violence prevention in the curriculum, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched an $18 million initiative last year aimed at preventing teen dating violence among 11- to 14-year olds.
A primary focus is teaching students to be “courageous bystanders” – stepping in either to stop the violence directly or to report it. In that effort, an alliance between a nonprofit and a school district in Austin, Texas, has emerged as a national model.
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