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Talking to Teens About Dating Violence: A Place to Start

If you are like many Americans, you may not consider the possibility that adolescents are likely to suffer from dating violence. Yet studies show that teens are at high risk for several different types of abuse. That reality makes it all the more important that we — as parents, educators, family, and trusted friends — take the time to talk to the teenagers in our lives about dating violence.

According to studies, 1 in 3 adolescents in the United States has experienced physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Yet in a study, only 58% of parents could correctly identify the signs that their child was being abused. With 1.5 million high school students experiencing physical abuse from a dating partner every year, it is on us to start the conversation.

We know that open and honest communication about topics such as dating violence can help reduce the risk of teens engaging in risky behavior and in perpetrating aggression. It can also help teens feel more comfortable going to trusted adults for support if they are in an abusive situation. Research shows:

  • That the key environment support for resilience in childhood is connections to competent and caring adults in the family and community;

  • That parental monitoring reduced the likelihood of 6th grade boys perpetrating physical dating aggression;

  • That greater parental warmth and knowledge about what their teens were doing reduces the odds of sexual risk behaviors, including alcohol and drug use during sex nd pregnancy; and

  • That youth prefer seeking help for dating violence from older siblings, parents, and friends as opposed to formal resources.

Talking to the teens is your life is crucial to their health and well-being, particularly when it comes to dating violence. Ideally, this should be done before you’re your child begins dating — but it is never too late to start.

Parents should also be aware of the warning signs of teen dating violence. Knowing these signs can help parents and other loved ones recognize that a teen may be at risk — and give them an opportunity to seek help. Blackburn Center’s hotline is available 24/7 to offer guidance and assistance: 1-888-832-2272 or 724-836-1122. Our hotline is free of charge, and is always confidential

Signs that your teen’s partner may be abusive include:

  • He or she physically harms your teen;

  • He to she isolates your teen from family or friends;

  • He or she has an explosive temper;

  • He or she constantly messages or calls your teen;

  • He or she puts down your teen verbally;

  • He or she forces or pressures your teen into sexual acts;

  • He or she displays extreme jealousy; or

  • He or she tells or threatens to tell your teen's sexual orientation if he or she is LGBTQ.

These are just some of the warning signs of teen dating violence. Understanding them can give adults a way of helping the teens in their lives seek help and resources, such as those from Blackburn Center.

Starting the conversation about teen dating violence can be daunting. That is why we are proud to have partnered with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV). Their new website, A Place 2 Start, offers parents and other loved ones a way to talk about dating violence with the teens in their lives. There, you can get tips and other resources for starting this vital conversation. By choosing to talk to your teens, you can help to reduce their risk of dating violence — and help them live a healthier future.

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