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Teen Dating Violence 101

Teens are slowly — and sometimes not so slowly — dipping their toes into the world of adult concerns. One of those issues is dating and the violence that sometimes comes along with it.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence shares some disturbing data:

  • 20.9% of female high school students and 13.4% of male high school students have been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.

  • 35% of 10th graders have been physically or verbally abused.

  • 10% of teens have been coerced to have sex on a date.

  • 26% of teens in relationships had experienced cyber dating abuse; females were twice as likely to be abused.

  • 57% of teens know someone who’s been sexually, verbally, or physically abused in a relationship.

  • Only one-third of dating abuse victims ever tell anyone about it.

  • Half of the teens who experienced rape or other dating violence admitted to attempting suicide (compared to 12.5% of nonabused girls and 5.4% of nonabused boys). Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t go away in college:

  • 43% of women experienced abuse at the hands of their dating partner.

  • More than 13% of college women say they’ve been stalked. Of that number, 42% were stalked by a boyfriend or an ex partner.

  • One in five women are sexually assaulted in college.

  • 35% of attempted rapes are date rapes.

  1. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, early prevention lowers the likelihood of dating violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the Dating Matters program, which describes the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy teen relationships, shares statistics and examples of dating violence as well as red flags, and shows how to foster good connections and preveThe way teens date and experience relationships differs from adults. More teens experience abuse via or over social media, typically over posts and passwords.

  2. Abusers resort to messenger and locator apps to monitor their partners’ whereabouts. Because some people — especially young people — practically live online, it’s all the harder to avoid an abusive partner if they constantly message or post about the victim. Addressing why some kids stay in bad relationships is worth noting too. Some rationalize bad behaviors as signs of love; others stick around because their partner boosts their social status.

  3. Signs of abuse include:

    • Isolation

    • Unexplained or unusual injuries

    • A lack of interest in once-enjoyed activities

    • Excuses for a partner’s bad behavior

It’s not just boy-girl problems, either; abuse happens in the LGBTQ community as well.

A Potentially Explosive Cocktail Drugs and alcohol, when mixed with hormones and extreme emotions, do not make for a good cocktail at any age. Alcohol and drugs can make emotions harder to control, interfere with decision-making, and fuel impulsive behaviors. Teens under the influence are more prone to jealousy, controlling behaviors, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Victims of dating violence in turn are at greater risk for using drugs and alcohol to cope with abuse. Using drugs and alcohol when dating can start a vicious cycle of abuse.

Programs to Stop the Cycle Because violent relationships during the adolescent years can lead to other dangerous behaviors such as substance abuse, risky sexual activities, or more domestic violence later in life, programs are popping up nationwide to help put an end to abusive behaviors. Here’s a small sampling:

  • Alliance for HOPE International is a social change organization that works to create programs and strategies to do away with domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and more.

  • The Family Justice Center Alliance serves as a clearinghouse, research hub, and national affiliation organization to help communities worldwide develop their own family justice centers or similar models designed to help victims of domestic abuse.

  • The Justice Legal Network provides legal support to victims while helping attorneys build their own practices as they do pro bono casework for victims.

  • The Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention aims to crack down on strangulation crimes and helps medical professionals and law enforcement better identify cases where the victim may have been choked.

  • The Camp HOPE America program offers camping and mentoring opportunities for children of domestic violence situations.

  • A new YWCA program called GameChangers, based in eastern Tennessee, is designed to teach young men about sexual assault, domestic abuse, and consent, as well as how to step in when they witness it. The goal is to protect and respect via knowledge and awareness while fighting negative gender stereotypes.

  • WomenShelter of Long Beach hosted a half-day conference — Getting the Conversation Started — that teaches teens how to spot the warning signs of bad hookups and shows them how to remove themselves from such relationships.

Consider Texting for Help

In the heat of the moment it may be riskier to make a phone call and speak to a 911 operator, so texting may be safer. Some communities advise doing that, including after an assault (especially when the perpetrator is nearby). Not all communities have this option, but for ones that do, victims can text 911 and ask for help. Text assistance differs from voice call assistance in that text messages do not display locations on dispatchers’ monitors. A simple and clear text mentioning the location is advised.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a regularly updated list of areas that offer text-to-911 services. FCC regulations also require wireless carriers and other text messaging apps to deliver emergency texts to call centers that ask for them. If a call center requests text-to-911, the text message provider must implement the service within six months.

In some cases, victims have dialed 911 and instead of asking for help, they’ll ask for a pepperoni pizza. They do this because they don’t want their abusers to know that they’re calling and they fear possible retaliation from them. Some emergency personnel, like in the Salt Lake City area, have been trained to treat such calls as potential calls for help. Operators can ask a few pointed questions that require only “yes” or “no” answers and dispatch help as needed.

Millions of people are victims of domestic violence every year. It is a crime that does not discriminate: young, old, white, black, wealthy, poor, men, women, members of the LGBTQ community– it affects all walks of life. What these individuals have in common is abuse. The bruises may fade and the scars may heal — if the survivor is lucky — but many suffer poor health as a result of


It may manifest as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in resorting to drug and alcohol abuse, in broken bones, in sexual assault, in unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, or as sexually transmitted diseases. It also may result in loss of life. Survivors are rarely the only ones affected, either. Families bear lasting wounds. Community resources are taxed when police, courts, and counselors devote endless hours to a recurring and ruthless problem. To search for a shelter near you, visit

The National Domestic Violence Hotline – Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233) National Suicide Prevention HotlineCrisis hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255); 888-613-0282 (en español) Crisis Text Line Text 741741 to speak with a trained Crisis Counselor.

The Trevor Project – Crisis hotline: 888-613-0282 (for those ages 13-24)

National Sexual Assault Hotline –Crisis hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673) Communities Against Hate Report an incident. Get help at: 1-844-9-NO-HATE

Insurance & Mental Health Resources National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Helpline: 888-613-0282 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Hotline: 800-662-HELP (4357) Domestic Violence/Abuse Resources Domestic Shelters – National Coalition of AntiViolence Programs (NCAVP) –

  • – Origins of Violence Against Women

  • – Get the Facts & Figures

  • – H.R. 1585 – Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019

  • – Overview of Intimate Partner Violence

  • – Learn About Dating Abuse

  • – Domestic Violence High Risk Team

  • – A Raised Hand: Can A New Approach Curb Domestic Homicide?

  • – Danger Assessment

  • – Examining Domestic Violence High Risk Teams: A Qualitative Assessment of This Promising Approach in Massachusetts

  • – Erie County’s Domestic Violence High-Risk Team Receives $900,000 in Federal Funding to Continue and Expand Its Mission to Protect Survivors

  • – Domestic Violence High Risk Team Impact

  • – Start a Domestic Violence High Risk Team

  • – Dating Abuse and Teen Violence

  • < – Statistics

  • – Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention

  • – New Dating Awareness Program Might Help Reduce Dating Violence

  • – From Puppy Love to Abuse: Here’s How Local Organizations Are Taking Action Against Teen Dating Violence

  • – Drugs, Alcohol, and Teen Dating Violence

  • – Love and Drugs and Violence

  • – Home Page

  • – YWCA GameChangers

  • – Text to 911

  • – 911 Texting Feature Now Available for Shelby County Residents

  • – Text 911: Call If You Can — Text If You Can’t

  • – Text to 911: What you Need to Know

  • – 911 Dispatchers Use Innovative Approach to Respond to Domestic Violence

  • Remember that Help and Support are available.

Thanks to Randy Palmer, outreach coordinator at Sunshine Behaviora l Health.

For info on Sunshine Behavioral Health, a drug and alcohol rehab center in San Juan Capistrano:

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