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Teen Dating Violence-Awareness Month February 2024

I spent 31 years in a relationship that was a result of teen dating violence. The harm is real; the effects can last a lifetime and are often hard to overcome. Teen dating violence can occur in any relationship, between any gender, and is often unreported or underreported. My story began like many others who suffer from domestic or dating abuse. It is important that young people know the signs of a dangerous relationship and how to get help should they find themselves or someone they know in one.

Dating violence is more common than you may think, especially among teens and young adults: 1 in 3 U.S. teens will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with before becoming adults. And nearly half (43%) of U.S. college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors.

The numbers are astounding! One-third of our teens will experience abuse by a trusted partner before they become adults. We live in a culture that promotes power and violence. Our kids hear their music, watch it on video, and play it in games. Domestic violence is not only normalized; it is often celebrated in the media. But our kids deserve better. It starts with educating them about healthy relationships and teaching them specifically what is potentially dangerous or abusive.

Signs of Teen Dating Violence

10 Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence
  • Using insults, intimidation, or humiliation

  • Extreme jealousy, insecurity, or controlling behavior

  • Isolation from friends and family

  • Unwanted sexual contact of any kind

  • Explosive temper or unusual moodiness

  • Constantly monitoring social media activities or location

  • Invasions of privacy: showing up unannounced

  • Leaving unwanted items, gifts, or flowers

  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

  • Threatening or causing physical violence; scratches, bruises

What can parents do?

  • Talk honestly and openly with your teen about what healthy relationships look like and that violence (verbal, physical, or sexual) has no place in a healthy relationship.

  • Know and recognize the signs of abuse, as well as the facts of dating violence.

  • Look for changes in your teen's mood, appearance, or activities, which could indicate that something is wrong or abuse is happening. This could be things like a drop in grades, unexplained bruises, or a change in friends or peer groups.

What are the risks?

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by their relationship experiences. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships may contribute to negative consequences. Research focused on the consequences of teen dating violence have similar limitations as those focused on identifying risk factors for teen dating violence making it difficult to make causal connections between teen dating violence and certain outcomes. Despite limitations, correlational research suggests that victims of teen dating violence are more likely to
  • do poorly in school or not attend school due to feeling unsafe;1

  • report binge drinking, smoking, using drugs, or engaging in unhealthy diet behaviors, including taking diet pills or laxatives and vomiting to lose weight;2

  • become pregnant or have an STD;3

  • attempt suicide and report feelings of hopelessness and sadness;4

  • develop a negative body image and become uncomfortable with their sexuality;5

  • be overly dependent on others and not achieving independence;6 and

  • enter into violent adult relationships.7

Survivors of teen dating violence may also find it very challenging to

  • establish intimacy with a partner;

  • become a positive member of society;

  • develop a personal value system, and

  • establish an adult identity.8

Abusers involved in teen dating violence create a pattern of behavior for themselves, which puts them at risk of ruining future relationships. In addition, perpetrators of teen dating violence may be more likely to bully and perpetrate violence against their peers.9 The earlier a problem is recognized, the sooner it can be addressed.

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