Teenage Dating Violence

Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are part of a relationship. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports:

“Among adult victims of rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner, 22% of women and 15% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.”

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence is the physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence within a dating/romantic relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically, and might occur between a current or former dating partner.   Such examples are:

Physical—occurs when a partner is pinched, hit, shoved, slapped, punched, or kicked

Psychological/Emotional— the threatening of a partner or harming his or her sense of self-worth. Examples include name calling, shaming, bullying, embarrassing on purpose, or keeping him/her away from friends and family

Sexual—forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or cannot consent. This can be physical or nonphysical, like threatening to spread rumors if a partner refuses to have sex

Stalking—refers to a pattern of harassing or threatening tactics that are unwanted and cause fear in the victim 

Dating violence is widespread with serious long-term and short-term effects. Many teens do not report the abuse because they are afraid to tell friends and family. Teens might be embarrassed by the situation or the abuser has threatened them about coming forward.  

Why does dating violence happen?

Teens receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults in their lives, media and especially social media. All too often these examples suggest that violence in a relationship is normal, but violence is never acceptable. 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 nonviolent.

Dating violence is never the fault of the victim. 

​What are the consequences of dating violence?

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by experiences in their relationships. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can have severe consequences.

Youth who experience dating violence are more likely to experience the following:
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety 
  • Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco, drug and alcohol use • Involvement in antisocial behaviors 
  • Thoughts about suicide 
Additionally, youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college.

Recognizing the Signs

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell when a relationship crosses from healthy or even unhealthy dating behavior. Knowing the warning signs can help you determine if your relationship is moving in an unhealthy relationships. According to LoveIsRespect.org

Warning signs may include:

  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do
  • Pressuring or forcing you to have sex

What should you do if you are a victim of teen dating violence?

The most important thing is to tell someone, whether it is a parent, teacher, counselor or police officer. The following resources can provide support and assistance:

  • Safe Connections, phone: 314-531-2003
  • Behavioral Health Response, phone: 314-469-6644
  • Youth In Need, phone: 636-946-3771

Reducing Risk
What is a Healthy Relationship?

Educating yourself and/or your teen about foster a healthy relationship, creating boundaries, and consent is an important step to reducing vulnerability to teen dating violence. We recommend using the resources found at:  LoveIsRepsect.org 

The Relationship Bill of Rights is another great way to discuss with your teen the differences between a healthy and abusive relationship. Read it now.

 Additional Sources of Information