Understanding the warning signs
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity to learn more about this tragic issue that impacts millions of teens across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 12 high school students in the U.S. is a victim of dating violence. As caregivers, teachers, friends, coaches, or neighbors, if you have a teen in your life, it is important to understand the signs that could indicate someone may be a victim of teen dating violence, as well as steps you can take to help.
The short and long-term effects of teen dating violence can be severe, leading to depression or anxiety, substance abuse, and increased risk of self-harm. Additionally, victims of teen dating violence are more likely to be in unhealthy relationships as adults as well (CDC).
Like with any form of domestic or intimate partner violence, it can be hard to spot teen dating violence because victims may be hesitant to tell anyone about what they are experiencing, but there are some red flags that should not be ignored.
- Unusual behaviors, such as a relationship escalating too quickly, unwanted gifts, showing up unexpectedly, or a history of bad relationships
- Emotional abuse/threats, including yelling, ridiculing, or humiliating the person in front of others; controlling and monitoring what the other person does all the time, including on social media; preventing or discouraging the other person from seeing friends or family
- Physical abuse, whether threatening to or actually hitting, shoving, scratching, kicking, slapping, biting or throwing things; destroying personal property
- Sexual abuse, pressuring or forcing the other person into any type of unwanted sexual activity
How to help
If you think a teen you care about may be a victim of dating violence, there are steps you can take to help, such as talking to them without being confrontational, offering support if they need it and providing them with information to contact a service that can help. School guidance counselors or therapists are a valuable resource as well and can help connect teens with services to help.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline – Immediate help and support is available 24/7 for those experiencing domestic violence or looking for resources for help.
- Break the Cycle – Specifically geared toward teenagers, this resource provides information about recognizing and addressing dating violence.
- Love is Respect – A project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, this resource offers 24/7 information, support, and advocacy to young people between the ages of 13 and 26 who have questions or concerns about their romantic relationships.
Please note, if you or someone you know are in immediate danger, call 911.
Other resources to learn more: