National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

Teen holding up hand, opposing domestic violence

Promoting Healthy Relationships

Teen dating violence is an ongoing issue extending beyond impacting teens; it also negatively impacts parents, teachers, friends and communities of those abused.

In the U.S., those ages 12 to 19 years old experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.  Studies indicate approximately 10% of our country’s total adolescent population report experiencing physical violence initiated by an intimate partner during the previous year. Girls are particularly vulnerable to experiencing relationship violence.  Young females are more likely to suffer long-term behavioral and health consequences, including suicide attempts, eating disorders, lowered self-esteem, depression and/or anxiety plus an increased risk of drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse.

What’s more, adolescents within abusive relationships often carry unhealthy patterns of violence into their future relationships, often identifying these patterns as normal, acceptable relationship behaviors. Victimized children or those children witnessing frequent violence bring those experiences with them to the playground, the classroom, and later within their initial dating relationships in their teens. Ultimately, these teens face greater risk of becoming either victims or perpetrators of adult intimate partner violence (IPV), repeating cyclical behaviors that are a detriment to themselves as well as to others, plus their communities.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Your local Capital Women’s Care team of women’s health professionals share important statistics, plus information and tips for teens, parents and community members about teen dating violence, including knowing signs that indicate teen dating violence and advocating to protect teens’ physical, mental and emotional health and well-being so they can build important foundations for healthy relationships throughout adulthood.

Types of Teen Dating Violence

Teen dating violence can take place in person, online or through technology. It’s a type of intimate partner violence (IPV) that can include the following types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.

  • Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act and or sexual touching when the partner does not consent or is unable to consent or refuse. It also includes non-physical sexual behaviors like posting or sharing sexual pictures of a partner without their consent or sexting someone without their consent.

  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm a partner mentally or emotionally and exert control over a partner.

  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a current or former partner that causes fear or safety concern for an individual victim or those close to the victim.

Teen dating violence profoundly impacts lifelong health, opportunity and wellbeing of its victims. Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime.

Statistics: Violence in Teen Dating

Unfortunately, teen dating violence is not uncommon, as evidenced by data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, which indicate that among U.S. high school students who dated during 1 year prior to taking the survey:

  • about 1 in 12 experienced physical dating violence.
  • about 1 in 12 experienced sexual dating violence.

What’s more, the CDC study iterates some groups of teens are at greater risk for teen dating violence than others. Female students experienced higher rates of physical and sexual dating violence than male students. Students identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) or those unsure of personal gender identity experienced higher rates of physical and sexual dating violence compared to students identifying as heterosexual.

Additional sobering statistics outlining teen dating violence:

  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

  • 1 in 3 (or 33%) of U.S. girls is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.

  • 1 in 10 (or 10%) of high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by either a boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • Girls and young women between 16 to 24 years old experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average.

  • Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 94% of those ages 16 to 19 years old and 70% of those ages 20 to 24 were victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • Violent behavior often begins between 12 to 18 years of age.

  • The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where abusive patterns were established during adolescence.

The good news is violence is preventable, and we can all help teens to grow up violence-free.

Teen Dating Violence Warning Signs

There are several typical warning signs teens can watch for that indicate dating abuse, including:

  • checking phone, email account or social media without having permission.
  • putting you down frequently, especially in the presence of others.
  • purposeful isolation from friends and family, whether physically, emotionally, or financially.
  • exhibiting extreme jealousy or insecurity often.
  • sudden, explosive outbursts of emotions, mood swings and temper.
  • any form of physical harm, even those done playfully.
  • possessiveness or controlling behavior.
  • pressuring or forcing sexual relations without consent.

If you experience any of the above indicators, even if experienced for the first time, prioritize your personal current and future safety and enlist the aid of a trusted family member, friend or mentor from within your community like a coach, teacher or church leader.

Remember: you are not to blame for such behavior, and no one deserves such treatment.

Warning Signs for Parents

There are several warning signs that indicate your teen may be in an abusive dating relationship. Some cues to be vigilant for include:

  • sudden, drastic changes in appearance (whether in clothing, hair style, weight, facial makeup.)
  • increased negative behaviors (withdrawal from family and friends, becoming argumentative about sharing plans and daily news, increased volatility in emotions.)
  • disobeying rules previously followed (curfew, communication if plans change, doing different activities than plans shared with you.)
  • diminished interest in previously enjoyed activities, friends, clubs or hobbies.
  • getting together with friends you don’t know.
  • poor grades and/or school attendance.
  • exhibiting signs of depression, hopelessness, anxiety, fear and negative self-image.
  • minimized or nonexistent talk about their daily life.
  • exhibiting antisocial behaviors, like lying, theft, bullying or hitting.
  • sudden appearances of any bruising, welts, or other injuries vehemently brushed off as accidents if asked.

Parental Discussion Tips

If you suspect your teen may be a victim of dating abuse, you are the most important resource and advisor for your child. If you need support, there are people and resources available. Remind your teen that he or she deserves a violence-free relationship and abuse is never appropriate and never their fault.

If you think your son or daughter may be controlling, abusive, or violent with his or her partner, tell your teen abuse and violence are not acceptable and that violence won’t solve problems. Let him or her know when you truly care for someone you don’t hurt them or try to control them. Abuse is a choice and there are resources and counselors that can help him or her understand the consequences, the alternatives to violence and how to stop the abuse.

If at any time you feel either you or your teen are in immediate danger, call 911.

If your teen exhibits any indicators of dating abuse, let them know you are on their side and are committed to help them overcome abusive relationship challenges.

As a parent, it’s important to help your teen understand what a healthy relationship feels and looks like. Your teen is initializing relationships that set the tone for their future relationships. Given that 1 in 5 high schoolers experience dating violence, you want to be approachable, non-judgmental, respectful and trusting so your teen reaches out.

When talking with your teen, talk openly and honestly with calm respect minus judgment. These tips for discussing relationships with your teen can help you build your teen’s trust should they require help.

These conversation starters about digital dating abuse can help you and your teen navigate potential digital dating abuse issues.

It’s also important to let your teen know how to be a good friend and watch out for others. These tips on how teens can be a good friend and watch out for bullying, aggressiveness, relationship abuse and peer pressure paves the way for your teen to understand the importance of relationship respect and establish it as part of their character traits as they become independent young adults.

If your teen isn’t ready to openly communicate with you, let him or her know there are confidential resources and trained individuals available to answer questions to help avoid unhealthy relationships.

Let your teen know you are always available to talk and share these confidential dating abuse resources:

Community Responsibility: Reach Out & Make a Difference

Importantly, community members can make a difference by reaching out to young people. As we interact with teens daily each of us can help eliminate teen dating violence by:

  • discussing all warning signs associated with dating abuse (all kinds, not just those relating to physical abuse.)

  • creating a positive connection to the issue. Talk about the characteristics of healthy teen relationships, including those involving intimacy.

  • talking about media portrayals of relationships, as many popular culture outlets portray stalking as romantic or harmless when it is in fact extremely dangerous.

  • getting involved. Classroom and/or team group discussions plus school announcements all open doors to starting this important, potentially life-saving conversation.

Your Capital Women’s Care team of compassionate health experts are here to answer your questions and concerns about teen dating violence and abuse or any women’s health issue. We prioritize sound, comprehensive care and treatment so you and each member within your family can achieve and enjoy a long quality life.


Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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