Research on the Intersection of RHY and Relationship Violence
Current statistics show an average of twenty to thirty-five percent of youth involved in dating relationships report experiencing current or past incidences of dating violence.1,2 Adolescents who have run away from home, are homeless, or are unstably housed experience substantially higher rates of dating violence and victimization than their stably housed peers.3, 4, 5 Several factors contribute to the high rates of relationship abuse and victimization within the runaway and homeless youth population, including limited access to resources and increased exposure to street culture.6, 7 In addition, homeless youth may engage in subsistence strategies that place them at greater risk for relationship violence, such as survival sex, that increase their visibility and proximity to potential perpetrators.
Many runaway and homeless youth have “multiple histories of trauma”
- These histories include: family violence; parental neglect; parental mental illness; childhood sexual and physical abuse; sexual exploitation, rape, sexual assault; survival sex; gang violence; intimate partner violence. Studies also document resiliencies and strengths among RHY that serve as important protective factors in light of high levels of violence exposure.
- In one study 70% had experienced some form of violence (32% had been sexually assaulted, 15% after being on the streets).
- Another study found that 60% of homeless female youth and 25% of males had reported being sexually assaulted prior to leaving home.
Sexual orientation and gender identity increase risk for victimization
- LGBTQ youth are more likely to leave home as a result of physical abuse and conflict with family.
- Substance abuse, depressive symptoms, suicidality are more frequent among gay and lesbian-identified youth than non-LGBTQ youth.
How youth define “intimate partners” and “dating relationships” varies significantly
- RHY who are more often on the street (in comparison to youth using shelter services) are at greater risk of exploitive relationships, including a 3-fold greater chance of engaging in survival sex.
- Studies show high levels of physical violence in their relationship (70% in one study of both male and female shelter-based youth), with youth reporting both victimization and perpetration and violence in more than one relationship.
2. Wolf, K.A. & Foshee, V.A. (2003). Family violence, anger expression styles, & adolescent dating violence. Journal of Family Violence, 18(6), 309-316.
3. Lee, B.A. & Schreck, C.J. (2005). Danger on the streets: Marginality & victimization among homeless people. American Behavioral Scientist, 48, 1055-1081.
4. Whitbeck, L.B. & Hoyt, D.R. (1999). Nowhere to grow: Homeless & runaway adolescents & their families. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
5. Chen, X., Thrane, L., Whitbeck, L.B., Johnson, K.D., Hoyt, D.R. (2007). Onset of conduct disorder, use of delinquent subsistence strategies, & street victimization among homeless & runaway adolescents in the Midwest. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 1156-1183.
6. Tyler, K.A., Hoyt, L.B., Whitbeck, L.B. & Cauce, A.M. (2001). The impact of childhood sexual abuse on later sexual victimization among runaway youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 11, 151-176.
7. Whitbeck, L.B. & Hoyt, D.R. (1999). Nowhere to grow: Homeless & runaway adolescents & their families. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.