Love Is Respect: Teen Dating Violence and How to Intervene

Unhealthy relationship behaviors are those that impact the physical, emotional, and mental health of a victim. According to Choose Respect, a young man or woman’s harmful relationship behaviors often start early and lead to a lifetime of abuse.

Everyone should know the pervasiveness of teen dating violence in the United States, including fellow students, teachers, and parents.

10 Facts About Teen Dating Violence

The following information is from Choose Respect, a national initiative to help teenagers and adolescents build healthy relationships to prevent dating violence and abuse.

  1. 1 in 4 adolescents is a victim of physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse each year.
  2. About 1 in 5 adolescents report being emotionally abused.
  3. About 1 in 5 high school girls have been physically assaulted or sexually abused by a dating partner.
  4. 54% of high school students report dating violence among their peers.
  5. 1 in 3 teenagers reports to an adult when a peer has been physically hurt by their partner.
  6. 80% of teenagers believe verbal abuse (yelling, name-calling, manipulation, and constant criticism) is a serious issue in their age group.
  7. Almost 80% of girls who are physical abuse victims continue to date their abuser.
  8. Almost 70% of sexually abused teen girls knew their rapist. The perpetrator was a boyfriend, friend, or acquaintance.
  9. Most teen dating abuse happens at home.
  10. Almost 20% of teen girls reported that their boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm in the event of a break-up.

The effects of dating violence can last a lifetime. It increases the victim’s risk for substance use, sexual risk behaviors, pregnancy, and suicide. If a teen you know is enduring violence in his or her relationship, there are ways you can help.

How to Talk to a Teen in an Abusive Relationship

Keep in mind that teens may not be willing to share unless they trust you. Be consistent, open, and let them tell their story by:

  • Listening. Most teens are socially trained to allow adults or people of authority to interrupt them. The less you interject, the better.
  • Telling them to stop blaming themselves. Most abusers make their victims feel like it’s their fault the violence is happening. Your job is to insist on the opposite. No amount of faultiness or wrongdoing is enough to become violent towards a partner. Abuse is always a choice, and everyone deserves to feel safe in relationships.
  • Understanding conflicting emotions. Fear, low self-esteem, and believing abuse is normal are common reasons people stay in abusive relationships. If your friend is in an unhealthy relationship, please don’t judge! Instead, support them by understanding why they are unable or refuse to leave.
  • Empowering the teen to make the right choice. Forcing a teen somehow provokes them to do the opposite. For example, ordering your son or daughter to break up with their abuser might only encourage them to stay. To prevent further attachment to their abuser, it may help to give them options instead. Share with a teen how your partner treats you. Tell them that a loving relationship should have respect as one of its foundations, making no room for violence and abuse. Then, ask them if this is something they want in their own romantic relationships. Remember to stay consistent yet patient, and never give up until they make the right decision.

To all the teenagers out there, keep in mind that physical and sexual violence is illegal and can put you behind bars. And if you are a victim of teenage dating violence, realize your worth. Last, if you know someone who is suffering from dating violence, be there for them and encourage the need for help. If they are unwilling to listen or talk, at least offer resources that help educate and empower young people to prevent and end unhealthy relationships.