Teen Dating Violence Awareness

Preventing Teen Dating Violence

Teen dating violence is a serious issue and can involve physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking.1 It is vital to know what warning signs to look out for, the consequences of teen dating violence, why teens stay in abusive relationships, and how much their peers influence them.

Parents should also explain to their teens how they can help a friend who might be experiencing teen dating violence. Additionally, parents need to understand how to prevent teen dating violence and approach their teens if they suspect they are engaged in an abusive relationship.

What Is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence occurs between two teenagers in an intimate relationship. Teen dating violence can happen in person or online and affects millions of teenagers each year. It includes four types of behavior: 1

Physical Violence

When someone hurts or attempts to hurt their partner by hitting or kicking them or using a different kind of physical force.2

Sexual Violence

When a person forces or tries to force their partner to engage in a sex act, sexual touching, or non-physical sexual acts when their partner does not or cannot consent to the act.2

Physical Aggression

When someone uses verbal or non-verbal communication with their partner with the intent to harm them or gain control over them mentally or emotionally. 2


When a person gives repeated, unwanted attention and contact to their partner that creates fear and safety concerns for the victim or someone close to the victim.2

Repeated texting or posting explicit photos of a partner without their consent are examples of how teen dating violence can occur online. Other behaviors such as teasing and name-calling can develop into abuse and severe forms of violence.

Many teens believe that these behaviors are a normal part of a relationship. They often avoid reporting unhealthy behaviors because they are afraid of opening up to friends and family.2

Teen Dating Violence Statistics

Warning Signs

Even if your teenager is not ready to discuss abusive behaviors occurring in their relationship, there are signs you can look out for. Your teenager might be experiencing abuse in their relationship if they: 4

Consequences of Teen Dating Violence

Teenagers who are involved in abusive and unhealthy relationships are more likely than other teens to experience significant long-term consequences, including: 5

Teenagers in these kinds of relationships are also more likely to enter into unhealthy or abusive relationships later in life. Additionally, many domestic abusers say that they were personally sexually, physically, or emotionally abused as a child or teenager. 5

Why It's Hard to Leave

It is hard to imagine why a teenager would stay in an abusive relationship, and even harder to watch someone you love experience abuse and not be able to end it. Knowing why it is difficult for teens to leave toxic relationships can help foster patience and understanding towards your loved one.6

Relationships do not usually start with abuse or unhealthy behaviors. The beginning of a relationship is often characterized by the honeymoon phase when things are happy and light. As the relationship progresses, fights and unhealthy behaviors may start. 6

There are many reasons people might stay in unhealthy relationships, but they usually stay because there is hope that things will get better, their love for the other person, and a fear of leaving. Additionally, the abusers in the relationship often use minimization and blame tactics, which can confuse the victim and make it difficult for them to recognize unhealthy behaviors. The victims can also feel outside pressure to stay in the relationship. 6

Relationships like this can be terrifying and confusing for family members and other close loved ones. It is essential to understand that the teenager involved in the relationship is also experiencing various strong emotions. It ultimately needs to be the teen’s choice to leave the relationship, as pressuring them could make them more likely to stay in the relationship and avoid reaching out for help. The best thing anyone else can do is exhibit continued and unwavering support. 6

The Influence of Peers

Teens are strongly influenced by their friends, and it is almost impossible to understand them without understanding this influence. Peers have the most substantial effect on each other during adolescence than at any other age. Peer attitudes and behaviors significantly impact other teens’ attitudes and behaviors concerning teen dating violence. 7

Friends are more likely to play a crucial part in an adolescent couple’s social life than an older couple’s social life. Almost half of teen dating violence episodes occur when someone else is there because adolescents often spend much of their time at school and in groups. Teens may also act differently with their partner when in front of a group of people, which often indicates an unhealthy relationship. Some adolescent boys have even said that if a girl hit them in front of their friends, they would hit her back to look good for their friends. 7

Teen dating violence can also occur as a response to jealousy. One person in the relationship might spend more time with their friends or with a friend of the opposite sex. Navigating and trying to understand new romantic possibilities can also cause conflict. The novelty of a relationship like this can lead to aggressive responses and unhealthy behaviors such as stalking, psychological or verbal abuse, and efforts to control the other person. 7

How to Help a Friend

Since peers have such a strong influence on each other during adolescent years, teens must understand how to support and help a friend who may be experiencing teen dating violence. Share with your teen ways in which they can help a friend who might be engaged in an abusive relationship. 8

Tell your teen to reach out to their friend and ask if they are ok or need support. They should talk to them about what they have seen and express their worry. Ensure they know that if their friend is not ready to talk, they should not push the issue, as it is crucial for them to do things in their own time.8

If their friend is ready to talk to them, they should do their best to listen to them without judgment. Tell them to let their friend know that it is not their fault and they are not alone. They need to avoid trying to force them to leave the relationship, as leaving abusive relationships can be difficult, and the person in it should be the one to make the decision. The most important thing they can do is let their friend know they are there for them, as having a trusted friend can help them decide on their own.8  

Your teen must say and do what is best for their friend. They can bring up negative behavior without saying harsh things about their friend’s partner. Tell your child that their friend may care about their partner, even if their partner mistreats them. They might suggest that their friend make a list of the relationship’s pros and cons with their support.8

Help your teen find services in your community that can help their friend. These services can include things like shelters and support groups. Your child can share these resources with their friend to utilize when they are ready to explore options and seek help.8

Ensure your teen encourages their friend to speak with an adult, such as a parent or caregiver, teacher, counselor, or social worker. Your child might even offer to accompany their friend during the discussion to provide support. Your teen needs to know that they can come to you for additional support if their friend is unwilling to accept help.8

Your teen may want to help their friend create a safety plan that includes who they can talk to, where they can go, and how they can protect themselves. It is vital for them to be prepared, as they are most at risk when planning to leave or leaving the relationship.8

Encourage your teen to check in with their friend and remain close with them. Isolation from friends and family is typical in an abusive relationship and can be extremely dangerous. Even if your teen’s friend does not want to talk to them, checking in shows them that they are not alone and are supported outside of the relationship.8

Ensure your teen knows that it is ok for them to take a step back every so often to take care of themselves. They must understand that it is essential for them to talk about their feelings with someone they can trust.8

How to Prevent Teen Dating Violence

It is crucial to help reduce risk factors and foster protective factors to prevent teen dating violence. It is also essential for family, friends, teachers, coaches, and mentors to empower teens to make healthy choices and engage in healthy relationships. Teens must have access to safe spaces where behavioral norms do not tolerate abuse. 9

Parents can take the following steps to help reduce their child’s risk of becoming involved in an abusive relationship. 10

Maintain open and honest communication with your teenager regarding relationships. Ensure you include difficult topics, like sex. Ensure your teenager understands the importance of self-respect and respect for others. It is vital to listen to your child without judgment and answer any questions openly and honestly.10

Explain to your child what a healthy relationship is and how to form them. Ensure they understand that they are built on trust, honesty, respect, equality, and compromise. It is essential to seek help if you are experiencing a violent relationship, as your child is an “indirect victim” of this violence, creating severe consequences for them.10  

Teach your teen to speak up for themselves, confidently express their needs, and respectfully voice their opinions. It is also essential for them to understand what consent means and how important it is in a relationship.10

Help your teen find services in your community that can help their friend. These services can include things like shelters and support groups. Your child can share these resources with their friend to utilize when they are ready to explore options and seek help.8

Ensure your teen knows that it is vital to take action when they believe their friend might be in an unhealthy relationship. The first step is communication and offering support. If the friend cannot leave the relationship, encourage your teen to ask for support.10

If your teen is experiencing any mood changes, changes in sleeping patterns, withdrawal from once important activities and friends, poor school performance, or lack of interest, it may be time to get involved.10

Talk with your child if they exhibit any noticeable behavioral changes, and remember to remain caring and supportive until they are ready to talk with you. 10

How to Talk to Your Teen in an Abusive Relationship

If you find that your teenager is involved in an abusive relationship, it is essential to foster healthy communication. You can take steps to ensure you are communicating with them effectively. 9

Talk with your teen about what healthy relationships look like and encourage them to discuss their ideas. Instead of dismissing what they believe, engage in conversation by listening to what they say and offering your own opinion. This kind of communication can help them come to a decision that feels like their own. It is essential to avoid analyzing, interrupting, lecturing, or accusing.6

Find the balance between sensitivity and firmness. Respect any differences in opinion during conversation and encourage finding a mutually acceptable decision regarding your teen’s relationship.6

Becoming too judgemental can cause your child to become defensive, remain in unhealthy relationships, and avoid coming to you for help in the future. Their experiences are most likely different from yours, so it is vital to take them seriously. Ensure they know you are on their side and that any decisions they make need to be their own.6

Tell your teen that you are concerned for their safety, and they deserve to be in a healthy relationship. Ensure they are aware of how you feel about disrespect, abuse, and controlling behavior. Remind them that they are allowed to say no. Tell them that you know it is not their fault, you do not blame them, and you respect their decisions.6

If your child expresses that they are afraid or uncomfortable in their relationship, make sure they know they can come to you. You should also connect them with additional resources such as a counselor or helpline.6

Schedule time to engage in fun activities with your teen that you know they will enjoy. Make an effort to understand their interests. Spending more time with them is a great way to learn more about their lives.6

It is ok not to have all the answers and to make mistakes. You can still do your best to help your teen make responsible choices. Admitting that you don’t know the answer to something and exploring it with them can help build trust, honesty, and connection.6

If your teen is not ready to talk to you, do not try to force them into a conversation. It is most important to make sure you know you support them and love them. You can always try again in the future.6


  1. 1. Kate Blackman, A. B. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/teen-dating-violence.aspx
  2. 2. Preventing Teen Dating Violence |Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC. (2020, January 27). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teendatingviolence/fastfact.html
  3. 3. 11 Facts About Teen Dating Violence. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-teen-dating-violence
  4. 4. Can You Talk to Teens About Healthy Relationships and Teen Dating Violence? (2017, February 16). Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/blog/2017/02/can-you-talk-to-teens-about-healthy-relationships-and-teen-dating-violence
  5. 5. Kerr, M. (2017, February 08). Holiday Depression: Statistics & How to Deal (T. J. Legg Ph.D., CRNP, Ed.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays
  6. 6. Teendvmonth. (2017, September 10). What is Teen Dating Violence? Retrieved from https://www.teendvmonth.org/what-is-teen-dating-violence/
  7. 7. A Parent’s Guide to Teen Dating Violence. (2013) https://www.cityofmalden.org/DocumentCenter/View/1129/Teen-Dating-Violence-pdf
  8. 8. Mulford, C., & About the author Carrie Mulford is a social science analyst at the National Institute of Justice. She has worked extensively with research on juvenile justice. (n.d.). Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships. Retrieved from https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/teen-dating-violence-closer-look-adolescent-romantic-relationships
  9. 9. Dating violence: How to help a friend. (2020, January 14). Retrieved from https://kidshelpphone.ca/get-info/dating-violence-how-help-friend/
  10. 10. Dating Violence Prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://youth.gov/youth-topics/teen-dating-violence
  11. 11. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (2019, September 25). Facts About Teen Dating Violence and How You Can Help Prevent It. Retrieved from https://www.chop.edu/news/health-tip/facts-about-teen-dating-violence-and-how-you-can-help-prevent-it