What is Teen Dating Violence?

Updated: Aug 7

Choosing to be in a relationship with a significant other means trusting that they will love and respect you. Unfortunately, that trust and sense of safety can be betrayed through dating violence. At Trees of Hope, we want to shed light on this issue by talking about how dating violence occurs and teaching you to identify the warning signs of teen violence.

What is Teen Dating Violence

Dating violence happens when an adolescent experiences physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse by their partner.

Here are some examples of how teen dating violence can happen:

  • Physical abuse: Slapping, punching, kicking, using/throwing objects with the intent of hurting their partner.

  • Sexual abuse: Forced and/or coerced touching, sexual activity and digital intimacy.

  • Verbal abuse: Screaming, belittling, name-calling, harassment through text messages, calls, and social media.

  • Emotional abuse: Intimidation, threatening, bullying, humiliation, gaslighting, and isolation.

In a relationship, teens share sensitive information with their partner that can be used against them through dating violence. Often, abusive boyfriends/girlfriends will use strategies of manipulation, pressure and fear to gain power and control over their partner.

Here are some ways that an abuser exploits their partners’ vulnerabilities:

  • Hacking onto social media accounts and threatening to leak sensitive information.

  • Pressure to have sex or do drugs.

  • Intimidation through frequent arguing along with threats of breaking up if their partner doesn’t give in to their demands.

  • Lack of respect for privacy or boundaries. Abusers will take away their partners’ independence by monitoring messages and social media, while also controlling their partners’ social and personal life.

  • Isolating their partner from friends and family. Abusers want their partners to rely only on them. Abusers will take calculated steps to isolate their partner from anyone who threatens their control and power in the relationship.

Warning Signs

Statistics published by the CDC show that one in nine girls and one in 36 boys reported specifically experiencing sexual abuse through teen dating violence during their high school years. Keep the following warning signs in mind whenever your teen starts a romantic relationship with a significant other:

  • Controlling or possessive interactions.

  • Be aware if you notice your teen’s partner deciding who your teen can and can’t be friends with. This also includes forcing your teen to behave in specific ways such as texting them every hour or asking for their permission to post on social media.

  • Unhealthy communication such as constant belittling or humiliating.

  • Changes in your teen’s academic performance and/or clothing style after becoming involved in a romantic relationship.

  • Signs of depression at home and in school.

  • High risk or self-harming behaviors such as drug use, alcohol use, cutting, unsafe sex, etc.

It’s important for parents to immediately intervene at the first indication that your teen might be experiencing dating violence. Education is the most effective prevention tool against teen dating violence and sexual abuse. Use this knowledge to start a conversation about unhealthy dating habits with your teen, and to strengthen their vulnerabilities so they may live a life of freedom from dating violence.

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