Study co-authored by Ball State professor looks at relationship violence in young adults

The Daily News




School nurses provide the first line of defense for adolescents dealing with abusive relationships, according to a study authored by a Ball State professor.

Jagdish Khubchandani, assistant professor of community health education, recently published “Providing Assistance to the Victims of Adolescent Dating Violence: A National Assessment of School Nurses’ Practices,” in the Journal of School Health. 

Khubchandani’s research looked at 348 K-12 school’s abilities to deal with acts of adolescent dating violence, or ADV, and to teach children about positive, normal relationship behavior.

“There are some movies that show kids being abused, so they think it’s OK,” Khubchandani said. “We have to get rid of those myths.”

Due to social stigmas and stereotypes, young adults often do not know where to turn to talk about sexual abuse that may involve pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease, or physical abuse that often leaves the victim embarrassed.

“Students would not go to their parents, and going to a teacher would not be possible either,” Khubchandani said. 

Students often find solace in talking to the school nurse though, 55 percent of whom report assisting a student with an ADV problem within the past two years.

However, of those school nurses, 86 percent did not have protocol for responding to an ADV incident, and 88 percent had received no training for assistance.

“It’s a conflict for schools and parents; everyone is trying to run away from the topic,” Khubchandani said. He also quoted one school principal he interviewed as saying, “I’m not here to deal with dating or bullying, I’m here to teach students.”

Another hurdle Khubchandani said school nurses have to overcome is a lack of updated education, most of which he said had not received any training for 20 or more years. 

“It has to be simple instruction — One day training, they need to be updated,” he said. Sixteen states have recommended talking about healthy relationships in general studies health classes, although this has received backlash, Khubchandani said. 

An aspect of ADV Khubchandani said was underplayed in popular media is the rate of female versus male abuse.

“I found that teenagers would laugh at other, saying, ‘Oh if your girlfriend is abusing you it’s OK,’” he said. 

Through his research, he found that both men and women have an almost equal chance to be abused; this was equally true in the LGBTQ community as well, with 11 percent of adolescents saying they had been abused in a relationship within the past year, and 30 percent saying they’d been abused in the last two years.

Khubchandani said he believes that abuse during adolescence leads to unhealthy relationships in adulthood, and that teaching students how to have a positive relationship will surely lead to a lower number of abusive adult relationships. 

“If a school does not have a moral responsibility, they at least have a legal responsibility,” Khubchandani said. 

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