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What teens should know about dating violence

This February, we recognize National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Teen dating violence—also called domestic violence or intimate partner violence—occurs when one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other person in the relationship. The abuse often occurs repeatedly, though this isn’t always the case.

An intimate partner can include a person’s romantic or sexual partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, or husband.

Teen dating violence can be common: One in three teens reports being in an unhealthy relationship.

What is dating violence?

Dating violence can include one or more of the following:

  • Sexual assault: Forcing their partner to engage in sexual acts without their consent
  • Harassment and stalking: Constantly showing up where their partner is, following them, spying on them, refusing to leave and sending threatening texts, calls, emails and posts
  • Emotional abuse: Name-calling, humiliation, yelling, intimidation or telling the other person what to do or wear
  • Physical abuse: Hitting, kicking, punching or other forms of physical violence
  • Financial abuse: Controlling or limiting their partner’s access to money so they have to be reliant on them  
  • Human trafficking: Coercing their partner into have forced intercourse in order to profit off of the act

Signs that your partner is abusive

Here are some other signs that your partner is abusive:

  • Any form of physical violence
  • Pressuring you or forcing you into unwanted sexual activity (note: even if you’ve engaged in sexual activity with this person in the past, you don’t have to keep doing it and it’s always your right to say no)
  • Controlling behaviors or possessiveness
  • Intense jealousy or insecurity
  • Accusing you of cheating when it’s not true
  • Checking your social media accounts, email or phone without your consent
  • Isolating you from your family and friends
  • Making fun of you or humiliating you, especially in front of other people
  • Mood swings
  • Yelling and explosive rage
  • Vandalizing or destroying your things
  • Blaming you for all of the problems in the relationship
  • Denying the abuse

By contrast, in a healthy relationship, both people are:

  • Equal
  • Honest
  • Trusting
  • Communicating consistently
  • Enjoying time apart
  • Respectful

Teen dating violence can lead to problems like:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia
  • Sexually transmitted infection
  • Suicidal thoughts

What to do if you or someone you know experiences dating abuse  

First, it’s important to know that abuse is never your fault and that you deserve a healthy, safe, loving relationship. If your partner is abusive, their behavior is unlikely to get better: Research shows that unhealthy or abusive relationships are more likely to get worse over time.

It’s also essential to ask for help—you don’t have to handle this alone and there are trustworthy adults who care and can help. Talk to a trusted adult like a:

  • Parent
  • Grandparent
  • Aunt or uncle
  • Older cousin
  • Older sibling
  • Teacher
  • Coach
  • School nurse
  • School counselor
  • Parent of a friend

You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help by texting “START” to 88788, calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chatting with a counselor through their website.

Need more info? Connect with an Expert.



Love Is Respect: Warnings signs of abuse

Love Is Respect: Relationship spectrum

Teen Dating Violence: Signs of Teen Dating Violence

Teen Dating Violence: What is Teen Dating Violence?

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