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How Common Is Dating Violence Among Teens?

In discussions about domestic violence, the focus is often on adults in committed relationships who experience this type of abuse. Yet a person of any age may be subjected to abuse — including teens. As students head back to school this fall, we are shining a spotlight on something that happens far too often: teen dating violence.

What Is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence among teens that may take place in person, online, or through technology. It can include a number of different behaviors, including physical violence, sexual violence, emotional abuse, and/or stalking. Like domestic violence, teen dating violence involves a pattern of controlling and abusive behavior — and it does not necessarily have to include any physical or sexual violence.

Teens who are victims or survivors of dating violence often experience negative effects. Young people who are in unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety, have a negative body image, engage in unhealthy and/or antisocial behaviors like abusing drugs and alcohol or stealing, and think about suicide. Being in an abusive relationship as a teen also puts an individual at higher risk of victimization later in life.

There are a number of different warning signs of teen dating violence, including your dating partner:

  • Checking your phone, email, or social media accounts without your permission (or coercing you into giving permission);

  • Isolating you from friends and/or family;

  • Showing extreme jealousy or insecurity;

  • Having explosive outbursts, temper, or mood swings;

  • Putting you down frequently, especially in front of other people;

  • Harming you physically in any way;

  • Displaying possessiveness or controlling behavior; and

  • Pressuring you or forcing you to have sex.

If you believe that your relationship is unhealthy or abusive, call our hotline anytime at 1-888-832-2272 (TDD available) to get help. Calls to our hotline are free of charge and can be anonymous.

Does Dating Violence Occur Frequently Among Teens?

Dating violence is far more common than many people would suspect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Nearly 1 in 11 female and 1 in 14 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the past year;

  • About 1 in 8 female and 1 in 26 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the past year;

  • 26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18.

While dating violence can happen to anyone, young women are more likely than young men to experience this type of abuse.

Some teens are at a higher risk of being in an abusive relationship. The likelihood of being subjected to violence in a relationship as a young person increase for those who:

  • Experience stressful life events or show symptoms of trauma;

  • Live in poverty or receive child protective services;

  • Witness domestic violence or other forms of abuse

  • Are exposed to community violence;

  • Participate in risky behaviors;

  • Begin dating at an early age;

  • Participate in sexual activity prior to age 16;

  • Have a friend involved in dating violence;

  • Participate in peer violence;

  • Believe that dating violence is acceptable or are more accepting of rape myths and violence against women;

  • Have been exposed to harsh or inconsistent parenting, or lack supervision; and/or

  • Have low self-esteem, anger, or depressed mood.

There are also a number of protective factors that reduce the risk of teen dating violence. Having parents who are involved in a young person’s life, along with strong peer relationships, can lessen the likelihood that a teen will be in an abusive relationship. If you have a young person in your life, being actively involved in their lives and supporting their friendships is the best way to decrease the chances of them being in an abusive relationship.

If you do believe that your teen is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, we are here to help. Give us a call at 1-888-832-2272 (TDD available) to speak to a trained crisis counselor about what is happening. All calls to our hotline are free of charge, and can be anonymous.


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