National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.

A Pattern of Behavior

Calling dating violence a pattern doesn't mean the first instance of abuse is not dating violence. It just recognizes that dating violence usually involves a series of abusive behaviors over a course of time. Every relationship is different, but the one thing that is common to most abusive dating relationships is that the violence escalates over time and becomes more and more dangerous for the young victim.

Any teen or young adult can experience violence, abuse or unhealthy behaviors in their dating relationships. A relationship may be serious or casual, monogamous or not, short-term or long-term. Dating abuse does not discriminate – it does not see gender, sexual identity, economic status, ethnicity or religious preference.

  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
  • One in three girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
  • One in ten high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.

Teens and young adults experience the same types of abuse in relationships as adults. This 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 Facebook or other Social Media.

While there are many warning signs of abuse, here are ten common abusive behaviors:

  • 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.
  • Mood swings.
  • Physically hurting you in any way.
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do.
  • The abuse is never the victim's fault. It may be tempting to focus on what the victim could have done to avoid abuse. It is important to remember that nothing a victim does invites or excuses abuse. There are many reasons a person stays in an abusive relationship. Liking the abuse is not one of them.
  • Telling someone to "just leave" the relationship is not the answer. There are many reasons why teens and 20-somethings stay in unhealthy relationships. For one, breaking up can be the most violent time in an abusive relationship. Without understanding the obstacles a young person may face and helping him or her through a safe separation, the situation usually gets worse, not better.
  • Take relationships among youth seriously. Even if a person is young, his or her relationship still matters. By assuming teen relationships are just "puppy love," adults risk overlooking the seriousness of dating violence. Abuse among youth can be just as destructive as among adults, if not more so. Dating abuse can lead to unwanted pregnancy, eating disorders and even suicide.Dating violence happens in every type of relationship, in every community. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight, confident or shy. Anyone can become part of an unhealthy relationship and no one has a predisposition to becoming a victim of abuse. Victims do not begin the relationship with "low self esteem."
  • Dating violence isn't just physical. Emotional and sexual violence can be just as, if not more, devastating to a young person's health than physical violence.
  • Do not advise teens to fight back. When a victim violently lashes out against his or her abuser, the violence often escalates. The abuser may even take that moment to "prove" the violence is mutual and, sometimes, to press charges. Moreover, fighting back does not end the violence. It is much more effective to seek legal help or make a safety plan.
  • There's never a point where you should "cut off" a friend who is being abused. Part of an abuser's tactics is to isolate his or her victim. Without a supportive community, the victim finds it harder to leave the unhealthy relationship. Being a good friend, listening and supporting the victim's decisions are the best ways to show him or her that there are alternatives to the abusive relationship.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Teen DV Month