High school students were long restricted by parents and schools when it came to dating, but a new survey shows that more than one-third of female high school students are now prevented from dating by their boyfriends.

The nonprofit organization against domestic violence, Women’s Net Kobe, interviewed 2,600 female and 1,800 male high school students over two years and found that many high school relationships involved violence, coercion and restrictions.

In the survey, 33 percent of female high school students said their boyfriends imposed restrictions on them. These restrictions included boyfriends’ demanding they not go out with other friends, limiting the times they could go out and erasing contacts and numbers from their cellphones. The survey also found that 27 percent of the female students said they suffered psychological violence such as verbal abuse.

In addition, 18 percent said their boyfriends coerced them into having sex and 15 percent of female high school students suffered physical violence from their partners. Male students also reported these experiences, but at much lower percentages.

The common experience of abusive treatment was further evidenced by one-third of female high school students reporting they felt frightened by their boyfriends and 28 percent feeling they could not disobey their partners. This type of male control, which is another type of bullying, is a serious issue. Like the habits developed in regular school classes, fear and intimidation experienced in early relationships can become ingrained, and become harder to break later in life.

The key to curbing this problem is for young women to learn to be assertive. Communication is never easy, but it is essential that both male and female students learn to establish intimate bonds based on respect and equality. When that happens, the inevitable difficulties and desires can be talked through in a grownup manner that does not lead to force or violence. Young men and women must learn to openly confront the fears and shame that let problems fester.

Teachers and parents must listen and talk with young people honestly and constructively. Workshops inside high schools, such as those run by Women’s Net Kobe, are one way to openly challenge wrong assumptions and directly educate young people in better ways of relating and communicating.

The reality is that high school students are going to develop intimate ties with boyfriends and girlfriends. With the help of adults, and their peers, young people can learn how to base communication on understanding their emotions and respecting their partners and can learn how to build healthy relationship skills that will last them a lifetime.

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