Dating Violence Prevention, Teens Ages 13 to 19 Years

One in four adolescents reports physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse by a dating partner each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also estimates that about 10 percent of students in the United States report being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing teen dating violence.

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Dating violence is a type of domestic violence that happens between people in a close relationship.

Dating violence often starts with small acts, like teasing and name-calling. People often think that these actions are a "normal" part of relationships. Even behaviors that seem small can lead to more serious violence, like physical assault and rape. Abusers often use physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment, or stalking to control their boyfriend's or girlfriend's behavior.

How might dating violence affect a teenager's life?

  • Teens who are victims are more likely to do poorly in school.
  • Abused teens may engage in unhealthy behavior, like alcohol and drug use.
  • The anger and stress that victims feel could lead to eating disorders or depression.
  • Some victims think about or attempt suicide.
  • Teens may carry the abusive behaviors learned during an early relationship into their future relationships. Physically abused teens are three times more likely than non-abused teens to experience violence during college.

What are some common characteristics of teens who act abusively in relationships?

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Use of threats or violence to solve problems
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Poor social skills
  • Violent friends
  • Problems at school
  • Little supervision, support, or discipline from parents
  • Witnessing abuse at home

What are some signs that a teen may be in an abusive relationship?

  • Losing interest in school or activities
  • Spending less time with friends
  • Spending a great deal of time with the person they are dating
  • Having visible marks or bruises
  • Wearing long sleeved shirts and pants even during warm weather (to hide marks)

What is the best way to talk about dating violence with my teen?

  • Before your child becomes involved in a relationship, talk about good dating and relationship behaviors. Make sure to tell your child that nobody deserves to be abused, and no one should act violently towards someone they care about.
  • Recognize when your teen wants to talk, and ask open-ended questions to find out what is on their mind.
  • Listen to your teen without getting upset or telling them what to do.
  • Do not act judgmental. If your teen is being abused, make sure to tell him or her that they do not deserve that treatment and it is not their fault. If your teen is the abuser, tell them that this does not make them a bad person, and that talking about their feelings and behavior is an important step towards changing.
  • Try to help your teen decide what he or she wants to do about an abusive relationship, and help them to take the appropriate steps. Yelling at your teen or telling them to stop seeing their boyfriend or girlfriend right away will cause your teen to push you away. Getting out of an abusive relationship can be a slow process, and your teen will need your help and support.

Is there anything else to know about preventing Teen Dating Violence?

Show your teen what good relationships look like. When you interact with a romantic partner, friend, or your child, make sure to show respect and appreciation for that person. If your child grows up seeing what healthy relationships look like, he or she may be less likely to abuse a dating partner, or to stay in an abusive relationship.

Where can I find more information about teen dating violence?

Hotlines

  • New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotlines
    • Outside New York City: 1-800-942-6906
    • In NYC: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) or dial 311
    • Spanish language: 1-800-942-6908
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline (available 24/7): 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline (available 24/7 to connect with the nearest rape crisis center)
  • National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Websites