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P3 [Público]: “Dating Violence: Young People Less Likely to File a Complaint”

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"A study has shown that young people are more aware of dating violence, but still only nine percent of victims file a complaint to the authorities.

“Young people are more aware of dating violence, but still very few request help and only nine percent of victims file a complaint to the authorities,” said researcher Sónia Caridade.

“Dating violence is characterised by feelings of shame and embarrassment, and a great majority of youth are not seeking help,” said the author of the study on this subject.

The fear of being blamed, of not being able to keep the situation a secret, of having the adults pressure them into ending the relationship, of not receiving the help needed, and of parental punishments (since many relationships are not allowed by parents) makes young people hesitate in telling others what they are going through.

Friends are the main confidants

“Their main confidants are usually friends, but a majority are not equipped to give adequate support. They themselves might also be involved in abusive relationships, or they legitimise a set of beliefs that perpetuate the phenomenon,” explained a researcher at the Universidade do Minho, when speaking about the purpose of Valentine’s Day.

To raise awareness among young people about this problem, the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV) has conducted campaigns to address the importance of recognising all acts of violence as behaviors that are punishable by law.

“It is fundamental to invest in these young people to raise awareness and foster in them a proactive attitude whenever these situations arise,” said Manuela Santos from APAV.

The decision of a young person to file a complaint or expose this experience to a police officer is not easy to make, usually preferring to go to an institution of support. “APAV receives some requests for help from young people who would share with us their experiences of victimisation and ask us for support and referrals about what they can do from a legal standpoint,” said Santos, adding that these requests have been growing.

For researcher Susan Lucas from the Piaget Institute, prevention campaigns have contributed to a shift in paradigm where dating violence does not have to be “something hidden and have shown people that they are not alone”. “Fortunately there is already a demand [from young people] for the authorities and associations to support the victim, who comes forward to them to go through proper legal procedures,” said Lucas, adding that abuse begins around 13 years of age.

The frequency of violence is “higher” among youth with less education and among boys who are taught to be stronger, emotionally inhibited, competitive and domineering with their partners. A culture of prevention involving the promotion of healthy relationships, young people’s awareness and modification of violent behavior is, according to Caridade, the best way to combat dating violence. For this to happen, there must be a concerted effort among young people, institutions, organisations, educational providers (parents, teachers, and staff), peers and the community."

Source: P3 [Público]