For a long time, intimate partner violence in the United States was considered a private matter that was best handled behind closed doors, not one that warranted support and intervention from the criminal justice system.
But the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (often referred to simply as VAWA) in 1994 was part of a paradigm shift. The act sought to improve services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and improve the criminal justice system’s response to these crimes. The landmark act has been reauthorized four times since its passage, most recently in in 2022, the National Institute of Justice reports.
The NIJ has invested more than $150 million in research on violence against women, beginning in the 1970s with a study focused on sexual violence. NIJ funded the first project on teen dating violence in 2005 and has continued to support studies in this area, including longitudinal studies that allow for examining risk and protective factors, and patterns and consequences of teen dating violence that extend into adulthood.
Researchers developed the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence (STRiV), the first comprehensive national household survey focused on teen dating violence using detailed measures of victimization and perpetration. They found that youths who were characterized as having “positive parenting” based on their relationships and interactions with their parents were significantly less likely than those who were not to be tolerant of certain types of violence, particularly violence against boyfriends, as well as less likely to commit dating violence or be a victim one year later.
The research also found that there was a high overlap between victimization and perpetration. Over 84% of victims also reported perpetrating abuse, emphasizing that relationships that are characterized by violence typically involve mutual violence.
There were no differences between teen boys and girls regarding victimization rates, but girls reported perpetrating more physical abuse than boys. Specifically, girls ages 15-18 reported perpetrating moderate threats or physical violence at more than three times the rate of boys ages 15-18, and serious psychological abuse at more than four times the rate of boys.