NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A new report from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth found one in six Tennessee high school girls reported experiencing physical dating violence in 2019.
The report found that this was not only the highest rate in the United States but nearly double the national rate.
“If you take a second and just interview any girls you know, I am sure they can tell you about a friend of a friend or even themselves who’ve been in an abusive relationship,” said Sarah, a survivor of an abusive teenage relationship who asked for her last name to not be used given the sensitivity of the topic.
Sarah says she has only recently realized her high school boyfriend raped her and was emotionally abusive.
“He turned it into if I say ‘no’ that means try again in five minutes. And I got tired of saying ‘no.’ I thought it was better to get it over with than to continue to sit there and fight and get into an argument,” she said.
According to CDC data from 2021, one in 13 U.S. high schoolers reported sexual dating violence.
Sarah said she stayed in this abusive relationship through her freshman year of college.
“I hardly left my dorm room because I had to be readily on the phone with him unless he missed me,” she recalled. “I became kind of a shell of a human to the outside world.”
Sarah said after a friend heard her being yelled at over the phone, the friend intervened and tried to help, which eventually lead to Sarah breaking up with her boyfriend.
Experts at the Sexual Assault Center say the way to help people in situations like Sarah’s and reduce the number of teens facing physical, emotional and sexually abusive relationships, adults need to make sure they are having open conversations with teenagers about their relationships.
“We don’t have to just teach them when they are teens we can teach them when they are young about how to interact with people in a healthy way,” said Sexual Assault Center Clinical Director Alicia Bunch.
Bunch said it is also important for teens to have easy access to resources and assistance.
The Sexual Assault Center has a 24-Hour Crisis & Support Line, which can be reached at 1-866-811-7473.