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Teen Dating Violence

Teen couple hanging out in shcoolyardUnhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Dating violence often starts with teasing and name calling. These behaviors are often thought to be a "normal" part of a relationship. But these behaviors can set the stage for more serious violence like physical assault and rape.

What is dating violence?

Teen dating violence [PDF 187KB] is defined as the physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship, as well as stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and may occur between a current or former dating partner. You may have heard several different words used to describe teen dating violence. Here are just a few:

  • Relationship Abuse
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Relationship Violence
  • Dating Abuse
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Domestic Violence

Adolescents and adults are often unaware that teens experience dating violence. In a nationwide survey, 9.4 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey). About 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey).

What are the consequences of dating violence?

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by their relationship experiences. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can cause short term and long term negative effects, or consequences to the developing teen. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, and report binge drinking, suicide attempts, and physical fighting. Victims may also carry the patterns of violence into future relationships.

Why Does Dating Violence Happen?

Teens laughingCommunicating with your partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect are a few ways to keep relationships healthy and non-violent. Teens receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults in their lives, and the media. All too often these examples suggest violence in a relationship is okay. Violence is never acceptable. But there are reasons why it happens.

Violence is related to certain risk factors. Risks of having unhealthy relationships increase for teens who:

  • Believe it's okay to use threats or violence to get their way or to express frustration or anger.
  • Use alcohol or drugs.
  • Can't manage anger or frustration.
  • Hang out with violent peers.
  • Have multiple sexual partners.
  • Have a friend involved in dating violence.
  • Are depressed or anxious.
  • Have learning difficulties and other problems at school.
  • Don't have parental supervision and support.
  • Witness violence at home or in the community.
  • Have a history of aggressive behavior or bullying.

Dating violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

The following resources provide more information on teen dating violence.

Publications

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