Pregnancy not the only danger for our daughters

After pondering the Bristol Palin pregnancy revelation for several days, I realize the need to wrap two serious issues with the potential to be deadly into one post: teen pregnancy and dating violence. They’re not only connected, they’re so closely interwoven that you can’t talk about one without the other.

I say this because of the recent study I wrote about in July. Commissioned by Liz Claiborne, Inc., it found that pre-teens (“tweens”) as young as 11-years-old are dating AND becoming victims of violence in the process.

Such violence can and does lead to pregnancy, as a 1995 Alan Guttmacher Institute study found. It revealed men age 20 or older fathered 66-percent of the babies born to teen mothers. Which makes it, by definition, child abuse. This problem hasn’t gone away; it’s just been swept under the rug until just such a time as this: The daughter of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is about to become an unwed mother (until she marries her teenage boyfriend, Levi Johnston).

Because a national audience is focused on a young woman who, by all rights, should be given the dignity of bearing her child in private, and also because the national teen pregnancy rate spiked in 2006 for the first time in 14 years, there is no better time to talk about the repercussions of teen dating and pregnancy than now.

The other consequence from teen dating can be seen by what happened to Sami Hightshoe and Lindsay Burke: Sami was repeatedly sexually abused in the woods behind her school and in her own home by her boyfriend, from the age of 14 until she finally found a way to end the relationship—with a restraining order against the guy. To protect Sami, her family had to spend $6,000 in legal fees.


How Doctors Can Help

Domestic Violence and Human Rights
Did you know

  • In just two minutes, you can change her life in a profound way?
  • If you don’t listen, she may never speak up again?
  • You may be the only lifeline she has?

Dr. Jane Schaller came back a different person from war-torn South Africa in 1985. Her experience led to Physicians for Human Rights, a Boston-based group that believes health professionals have a great moral and ethical influence on human rights issues. Schaller, who has documented the effects of war on children, as quoted in the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association (Vol. 52, 1997), says:

“It is true that one doctor cannot end a tyranny, make all children well or end all torture used against innocent human beings. But one physician can make some difference, and a group of physicians or other health professionals can make a great deal of difference…”

In this country, there is another war going in, one in which many, many women and children are victims.