In 2013, President Obama declared February National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. According to the National Research Center on Domestic Violence, approximately 1.5 million high school students every year experience physical abuse from a dating partner.
Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. Before the violence starts, a teen may experience controlling behavior and demands such as being told what to wear and with whom to hang out. Over time, the unhealthy behavior may become violent. That’s why parents need to talk to their teens now about the importance of developing healthy, respectful relationships.
Dating violence can have a negative effect on health throughout life. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, abuse drugs and alcohol, attempt suicide, get into physical altercations, and be sexually active. Teens who perpetrate dating violence tend to carry these patterns of violence into their future relationships as well.
Types of Abuse
Teens and young adults experience the same types of abuse in relationships as adults do. These can include:
- Physical Abuse: Any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.
- Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.
- Sexual Abuse: Any action that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control.
- Digital Abuse: Use of technologies and/or social media networking to intimidate, harass or threaten a current or ex-dating partner. This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, sexting, excessive or threatening texts or stalking on social media.
Many adults understand that communicating with your partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect are a few ways to keep relationships healthy and non-violent. Teenagers receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults in their lives, and the media. Sometimes television shows or movies suggest violence in a relationship is okay. Violence is never acceptable.
Violence is related to certain risk factors. Risks of having unhealthy relationships increase for teens who:
- Believe it’s okay to use threats or violence to get their way or to express frustration or anger.
- Use alcohol or drugs.
- Can’t manage anger or frustration.
- Hang out with violent peers.
- Have multiple sexual partners.
- Have a friend involved in dating violence.
- Are depressed or anxious.
- Have learning difficulties and other problems at school.
- Don’t have parental supervision and support.
- Witness violence at home or in the community.
- Have a history of aggressive behavior or bullying.
Ten Warning Signs of Abuse
- Checking your cell phone or email without your permission
- Constantly putting you down
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Explosive temper
- Isolating you from family or friends
- Making false accusations
- Mood swings
- Physically hurting you in any way
- Telling you what to do
If you or a loved one is in a violent relationship, please get help!
Dating violence can happen to any teen in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship. Learn how to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships with the Center for Disease Control and the National Research Center on Domestic Violence online resources.
Dating violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.