Teen dating violence is a pattern of controlling behavior used against a girlfriend or boyfriend in a dating relationship. The forms of abuse are similar to those in adult domestic violence, but teens can be especially vulnerable. Because they lack experience and are still developing emotionally, teens may have difficulty differentiating between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. Pressure and jealousy by a partner may be mistaken for evidence that he/she is loving and caring. Young people may not feel comfortable talking to their parents or may, in fact, be living in an abusive home situation. Teens in abusive relationships may become isolated from their peers, cutting them off even further from communicating with someone who could help.
Negative health consequences to teens who are victims of dating violence include physical injury, depression, suicide, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
The following are some of the signs of an unhealthy, abusive relationship.
- Is jealous and possessive, checks up on you constantly, won’t let you be with your friends
- Puts you down in front of friends
- Makes all the decisions and doesn’t take your opinions seriously
- Makes you worry that you will say or do the wrong thing
- Gets too serious about the relationship too fast
- Threatens you
- Pressures you for sex
- Pressures you to use alcohol or drugs
- Grabs, pushes, shoves or hits you
Some statistics on teen dating violence:
- Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
- Nearly 10 percent of high school students have been hurt physically by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Nearly one in three sexually active girls in 9th-12th grades report ever experiencing physical or sexual violence from dating partners.
- One in three teens reports knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped or physically hurt by a partner, and 45 percent of girls know a friend or peer who has been pressured into having either intercourse or oral sex.
- One in four teens in a relationship say they have been called names, harassed or put down by their partner through cell phones and texting.
- One in five teen girls and one in ten younger teen girls (13 to 16) have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves.
- In a 2009 survey of parents, three in four parents say they have had a conversation with their teen about what it means to be in a healthy relationship – but 74 percent of sons and 66 percent of daughters said they have not had a conversation about dating abuse with a parent in the past year.
- Of the teens in an abusive relationship, fewer than one in three (32%) confide in their parents about the abusive relationship.
- Teen victims of physical dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors, engage in risky sexual behaviors and attempt or consider suicide.
- Compared with non-abused girls, those who experienced both physical and sexual dating violence are three times more likely to have been tested for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and more than twice as likely to report an STD diagnosis.
The above is based on information from the U.S. Department of Justice, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other studies, as reported on the Family Violence Prevention Fund website, www.endabuse.org