Teen dating abuse is just as common and serious as abusive adult relationships. 1 in 3 teens will experience dating abuse before high school graduation (i), and girls ages 16-24 are almost three times more likely to experience violent relationships than women of any other age (ii).
Both teen dating abuse and domestic abuse are defined by a pattern of behaviors that one partner uses to gain power and control over the other partner. These behaviors can include physical violence, sexual assault, emotional abuse, financial abuse, stalking, technological abuse, and more.
Just like survivors of domestic violence, teens who have been targets of dating abuse often suffer from severe and long-term impacts. They are more likely to experience higher rates of depression and anxiety, struggle with grades and future employment, or have thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Teens who experienced dating violence are also more likely to be in abusive adult relationships – both as a target of domestic violence or as a partner who uses violence.
Supporting teen survivors of relationship abuse and connecting them to services that promote safety, hope, and healing is a critical step to preventing domestic violence in their futures. A few of the key considerations when working with teens dealing with dating abuse are as follows:
- Targets of abuse frequently attend the same school and have the same friend group as their abusive partner. This can make it difficult to safety plan and avoid contact with the abusive partner.
- Many teens are new to dating and are not yet clear on what makes a relationship healthy; it can be harder for them to see the difference between typical relationship ups and downs and abusive dynamics. Adolescents are also more susceptible to the messaging and influence of peers and media.
- Only about 33% of teen survivors ever disclose dating abuse to anyone, and the majority of these teens prefer to speak to their friends instead of parents (iii). This can create a barrier to accessing services that require parent or guardian permission.
Safe+Sound Somerset is committed to providing services to teens and to raising awareness about teen dating abuse, using tools that address the unique needs of adolescents. Our counselors are certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat trauma in teens. Advocates who answer our 24/7 call and text hotline can confidentially provide information, supportive listening, and safety planning for teens and those who care for them. Our customizable teen safety plan addresses the specific safety concerns and characteristics of teen dating violence.
Our SPEAK Outreach & Education program has working to address teen dating violence through information and skills building presentations to teens, and those who work with them, since 2016. In February, we will recognize Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (#TDVAM2021) with activities and information to create awareness and increase prevention.
Teen dating abuse was first acknowledged as an issue in the early 2000s. In 2006, the first week of February was declared Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week, and in 2010 it was expanded to the entire month to send a strong national message that teen dating abuse, typically referring to dating relationships among youth ages 13-19, is both prevalent and serious.
Watch out for upcoming #TDVAM2021 initiatives over the next few weeks:
- Webinars for adults in English and Spanish that provide tools and information to talk to teens about relationships and dating violence.
- A TDVAM2021 toolkit for educators or youth group leaders that includes dating abuse lesson plans, activity guides, posters, safety plans, and teen resources.
- Weekly episodes of Ask Ava, our podcast for teens that answers real questions from local students.
- Additional information in our newsletter and on social media about teen dating violence, including ways that you can recognize teen dating violence and support teen survivors of abuse.
If you or someone you know needs help or as questions about teen dating abuse or domestic abuse, call or text our 24/7 hotline at 866-685-1122. Additional information can be found online at www.safe-sound.org.
(i) Haynie, D.L. et al. (2013). Dating Violence Perpetration and Victimization among US Adolescents: Prevalence, Patterns, and Associations with Health Complaints and Substance Use. Journal of Adolescent Health 53(2), 194-201.
(ii) Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice and Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the United States, 1993-2004. Dec. 2006.
(i) Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc. (Liz Claiborne, Inc.), Conducted by Teen Research Unlimited, (May 2009). “Troubled Economy Linked to High Levels of Teen Dating Violence & Abuse Survey 2009”