Teen Dating Violence is the ongoing experience of abuse by a dating partner in a teen relationship. Dating violence occurs because one partner chooses to forcefully exert power and control over the other partner.
Why do teens stay in abusive relationships?
Abusive relationships don’t begin with violence. Often there are signs early on, like jealousy and possessiveness. Unfortunately, these signs may be interpreted as affection. By the time violence starts, the victim may be too emotionally involved to think of leaving right away. The victim could be in denial that the relationship is abusive or be too afraid to leave. Sometimes victims blame themselves and try to be a “better” partner.
Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence:
- Avoiding friends
- Not being allowed to participate in activities outside the relationship
- Sudden changes in eating habits, dress, or appearance
- Unusual bruises, scratches, or marks
- Spends all her/his free time with partner
- A partner who is jealous or possessive
- A partner who uses name calling, threats, or intimidation
- Unable to make decisions without partner
- Seems nervous or unsure of partner
- Marked decrease in academic performance
- Personality changes
More than one in four teens (28%) in Massachusetts are hurt physically or sexually by a date before graduating from high school. (Executive Office of Health and Human Services statistic taken from the 1999 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey.)
Click here to read our Teen Safety Plan (.PDF format).
Talk to teens about their relationships. Ask questions and listen for warning signs in their answers. Here are some conversation starters:
- What do you like about your partner?
- I notice that you aren’t seeing your friends as much, is something wrong?
- What do you and your partner do together? How do you decide what to do?
- What qualities do you value in a relationship?
- What are your disagreements like?
- What activities do you enjoy without your partner?
- Who can you talk to about the relationship?
Talking about dating with teens could establish the relationship they need to feel comfortable asking an adult for help.
Talking About Abuse
When talking about abusive relationships, remember to:
- Bring up the topic when you are calm and have plenty of time for the conversation – Avoid being judgmental
- Spend more time listening than talking
- Let the victim know it’s not her/his fault
- Don’t put the abuser down
- Think of ways to stay safe such as a restraining order or changing classes at school
- Help the victim find resources for support
Womanshelter/Compañeras provides a 24-hour crisis/support line where victims, and family and friends of victims, can call for information and help. 1-877-536-1628