By Mackenzie Carpenter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sometimes, all a teenager needs is a safe space to talk and learn about unhealthy dating relationships.
And often, the best place for that is actually at a school-based health center, according to a new study.
The centers, which provide on-site confidential counseling and services to adolescents, can be a powerful educational tool in helping young people to understand what is OK and what is not in relationships, according to the study by Elizabeth Miller, lead investigator and chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
A group of 1,062 teens ages 14 to 19 were surveyed for exposure to relationship abuse — including cyber dating — sexual behavior and care-seeking for sexual and reproductive health at eight school-based health centers in California during the 2012-2013 school year.
At four centers, providers and staff were trained about how to best talk with students about health and unhealthy relationships and given educational materials and referrals, while four other centers did not get the training or information.
The differences were clear: Students who initially reported relationship abuse to trained staff at those four intervention sites were significantly less likely to report abuse three months later than those in schools without such services. Of the 400 students reporting abuse at an initial visit, 65 percent were still reporting such abuse three months later at school-based centers vs. 80 percent in schools without intervention clinics.