A survey released Wednesday by the advocacy coalition No More found that 51 percent of young people ages 15 to 22 know someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault.
The survey, one of the first of its kind to quantify dating violence among young people, found that 44 percent of both young men and women know someone who has been a victim of domestic violence and 30 percent know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault.
Monika Hostler, who serves as the executive director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told Raw Story, “What I told people working on the poll is that the data wasn’t shocking to me, what was shocking was that we got the resources to get the data.”
“I think the general public is going to be shocked,” she continued.
The release of the survey data coincides with the beginning of the trial against two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio who are accused of gang raping a 16-year-old girl. The case has garnered national attention, and some hackers even posted what was allegedly evidence of a local high school student describing the attack just hours after it occurred.
Hostler sympathized with “the young girl who was, in my opinion, raped both physically but also continuously re-victimized through the re-posting rampantly in social media, but that’s the other thing. If we didn’t have social media, would we really be talking about this case? So it’s a Catch-22, the effect social media has had. For this young girl, I’m sorry social media exists.”
The recent debate over renewing the Violence Against Women Act highlights the fact that legislators simply don’t have a good understanding of exactly how many people are affected.
“Quite frankly, I do believe that people care about violence against women, but they don’t think that the frequency is real,” Hostler said. “While they know that it’s wrong, and that it happens, I think that it is easier for politicians — and the general public — they think there are only a few people, the unmentionables, who experience this. ”
The survey found that 53 percent thought it would be difficult to help a victim of dating violence and 40 percent said they didn’t know what to do if they witnessed such an act of violence happening.
The survey found talking about violent behaviors was believed to be a good means of preventing it. Interestingly, African-Americans were far more likely to talk with friends or family about partner abuse than either whites or Hispanics.
The survey goes on to point out that while a majority of men, 62 percent, matched young women in saying they would be willing to intervene in domestic violence against a stranger, they were also far less likely to understand behaviors of abuse, such as stalking or controlling behavior.
“The thing that I aways say is accountability for young people looks very different from accountability for adults. So for me that means really doing the hard work for people who felt like it was okay to re-post and re-engage in this kind of behavior,” Hostler said.
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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