Fifty-two percent of all crimes against persons in Tennessee were classified as domestic violence last year.

Dr. Helen Eigenberg

“We need to be proactive at the teen level to be able to address this problem more effectively,” said Dr. Helen Eigenberg, head of the Department of Criminal Justice, who led a team of researchers to better understand Adolescent Intimate Partner Abuse in Hamilton County.

Catholic Health Initiatives, the parent company of Memorial Health Care System, partnered with the UTC Department of Criminal Justice and concluded there was no existing data on incident rates of Adolescent Intimate Partner Abuse (AIPA) in Hamilton County.

Interviews and surveys conducted with student s, community partners, teachers and counselors revealed few students received formal AIPA educational programming in high school and few adults had formal educational programming or in-service training.

Students talked more about physical abuse than emotional or sexual abuse, although all are problematic.

Researchers also found:

  • Students are reticent to speak with any adults about AIPA, including teachers and counselors
  • Victims are most likely to tell a friend about AIPA
  • Texting and social networking are tools used by perpetrators to harass and verbally abuse victims

The researchers were not surprised by the data.  They emphasized it is not an indication that Hamilton County is better or worse than the national average.

“Everyone said Adolescent Intimate Partner Abuse is a significant problem,” Eigenberg said.

Eigenberg’s team recommended the appropriation of additional funding to establish and teach protocols on staff reporting of AIPA.  At the same time, the researchers recognize schools are already burdened with difficult issues and budgets are limited.

Additionally, the group recommended legal counsel work with the state to create clear policies; schools should collect data on AIPA; there should be accountability of perpetrators and policy created to address the issue; and programming for students should be embedded in the curriculum and discussed frequently.

Memorial is making application for a grant from the national organization’s Mission and Ministry Fund, with the hope of creating programming to combat AIPA.

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