Teen Dating Violence

What is teen dating violence?

Dating violence occurs between two people in a relationship and can be physical, verbal, emotional or sexual. The effects of all teen dating violence reach beyond their formative years and can cause negative effects that continue during adulthood. Both boys and girls can be victims of dating violence, and both boys and girls can commit dating violence.

Types of Abuse:

Physical abuse occurs when a partner is pinched, hit, shoved, slapped, punched, or kicked.

Emotional abuse means threatening a partner or harming his or her sense of self-worth. Examples include name calling, shaming, bullying, embarrassing on purpose, or keeping him/her away from friends and family.

Sexual abuse is forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or cannot consent. This can be physical or nonphysical, like threatening to spread rumors if a partner refuses to have sex.

Dating violence can take place in person or electronically, such as repeated texting or posting sexual pictures of a partner online.

Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.

Signs of controlling behavior your girlfriend/boyfriend may show include:

  • Not letting you hang out with your friends
  • Calling or texting you frequently to find out where you are, who you are with and what you are doing
  • Telling you what to wear
  • Having to be with you all the time

What are the consequences of dating violence?

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by experiences in their relationships. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have severe consequences and short- and long-term negative effects on a developing teen. Youth who experience dating violence are more likely to experience the following:

  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco and drug use, and alcohol
  • Involvement in antisocial behaviors
  • Thoughts about suicide

If you are being abused, you might…

  • Believe it’s your own fault.
  • Feel angry, sad, depressed or confused.
  • Feel helpless to stop the abuse.
  • Feel threatened, humiliated or ashamed.
  • Feel anxious, trapped or lonely.
  • Worry about what might happen next.
  • Feel like you can’t talk to family or friends.
  • Be afraid of getting hurt.
  • Feel protective of your boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Feel bad about yourself.


If you think your relationship is unhealthy, it’s important to think about your safety now. Consider these points as you move forward:

  • Understand that a person can only change if they want to. You can’t force your partner to alter their behavior if they don’t believe they’re wrong.
  • Focus on your own needs. Are you taking care of yourself? Your wellness is always important. Watch your stress levels, take time to be with friends, get enough sleep. If you find that your relationship is draining you, consider ending it.
  • Connect with your support systems. Often, abusers try to isolate their partners. Talk to your friends, family members, teachers and others to make sure you’re getting the emotional support you need. Remember, our advocates are always ready to talk if you need a listening ear.
  • Think about breaking up. Remember that you deserve to feel safe and accepted in your relationship.

We’re Not “Dating,” How Can I Be Abused?

Abuse affects all types of relationships, not just long-term or committed relationships. Even if your relationship is casual or you’ve only hooked up once, you can still experience abuse. If something makes you uncomfortable, scared or threatened, you could be experiencing the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Tips for parents:

  • Maintain open communication
  • Foster child’s self-esteem/confidence
  • Establish trusting relationship with child
  • Be aware of your child’s relationships
  • Be good role models
  • Model respectful behavior
  • Teach children to give/expect respect
  • Educate yourself about dating violence
  • Talk to your teens about healthy relationships & abusive relationships

Teen Dating Violence Statistics

  • Girls and women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
  • 1 in 5 high school girls is physically or sexually hurt by a dating partner.
  • 1 in 3 teens experience some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships.
  • Only 33 % of teens who have been in or known about an abusive dating relationship report having told anyone about it.
  • Teen girls face relationship violence 3 times more than adult women.
  • 25% of victims say they have been isolated from family and friends.
  • More than half of victims say they have compromised their own beliefs to please a partner.
  • Cell phone calls and texting mean constant control: 1 in 3 teens say they are text messaged 10, 20, 30 times an hour by a partner keeping tabs on them

Click here to download a free copy of our Teen Dating Violence brochure.

Data Sources: Mississippi Attorney General’s Office Teen Dating Violence Brochure, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention Fact Sheet, Love Is Not Abuse