Teen Dating Violence

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to Love is Respect, 1 in 3 U.S. teens will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with. And nearly half (43%) of U.S. college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors. Parents and Caregivers can help prevent teen dating violence by talking to their teenagers and youth about dating violence and what it means to be in an unhealthy relationship.

Relationships exist on a spectrum, with healthy relationships being on one end and abusive relationships on the other. Relationships can move along the spectrum from healthy, to unhealthy, to abusive, or fall anywhere along the spectrum.

What Does a Healthy Relationships Look Like?

  • mutual respect
  • honesty
  • consent
  • boundaries
  • independence
  • trust
  • kindness
  • open communication

Let’s Talk About What an Unhealthy Relationship Can Look Like (victim behaviors):

  • Spending less time with friends and family, partner prevents activities that take away from time together
  • Excessive checking in or responding to partner – unable to “just not respond”
  • Being unusually compliant, agreeing to anything to “not rock the boat”
  • Being pressured or told what to do by partner, feeling like they don’t have a choice
  • Excessively worried about upsetting their partner, walking on eggshells
  • Apologizing or making excuses for partner’s behavior
  • Has injuries they are trying to cover up or can’t explain

Now, What Can an Abusive Relationship Look Like (abuser behaviors)?

Love is Respect shares the following warning signs of abuse.

  • Checking your phone, email or social media accounts without your permission
  • Putting you down frequently, especially in front of others
  • Isolating you from friends or family (physically, financially or emotionally)
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive outbursts, temper or mood swings
  • Any form of physical harm
  • Possessiveness or controlling behavior
  • Pressuring you or forcing you to have sex

For more information on the warning signs of abuse, visit: https://www.loveisrespect.org/dating-basics-for-healthy-relationships/warning-signs-of-abuse/

Abusive Relationships: Power and Control

Dating abuse is used by an abusive partner to gain or maintain power and control in a relationship. The Power and Control Wheel developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project is a useful tool to understand what dating abuse can look like.

Think of the wheel as a diagram of ways an abusive partner keeps their victims in a relationship.


How to Talk to Youth About Healthy Relationships and Dating Violence

Darkness 2 Light has provided some great tips for talking to youth about these topics:

Consent: Asking for and receiving consent is key! Consent is affirmative permission to do something. It’s not permanent permission- teach your teens that they can revoke consent at any time, and that consent needs to be present for every activity. Consent isn’t implied through an attitude or a type of clothing, and it can’t be given while under the influence. A person only consents when they give a clear, positive response.

Respecting Boundaries: If consent isn’t given (for anything), teach your teen to be ok with that. It’s never ok to force someone to do something. It’s also never ok to make someone feel bad for holding their boundaries. Maintaining boundaries and feeling comfortable enough to speak up about your needs actually makes the relationship safer, because you build trust with one another. It’s a sign of respect.

Clear Communication and Honesty: Empower your teen to make their needs and boundaries known. When a person communicates clearly, there’s no question as to consent, and each partner will be able to truly understand the other’s perspectives.

Empathy: Empathy is when you identify with another person’s thoughts, feelings, or attitudes. By empathizing with their partner, your teen will learn to look beyond themselves and recognize the other’s needs. How do you teach a teen to cultivate empathy? Model it for them yourself.

For more information on talking to teens about healthy relationships, visit here: https://www.d2l.org/talking-teens-healthy-relationships/

How to Help Someone in an Abusive Relationship?

If you are worried about yourself or someone else in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, share or visit these resources below.

Love is Respect can help you walk through a safety plan for leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship:  https://www.loveisrespect.org/get-relationship-help-24-7-365/dating-abuse-safety-plan/

One Love has a document to help you know how to help a friend: https://www.joinonelove.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/Help-a-Friend-In-an-Abusive-Relationship-1.pdf

If you need to speak to someone about your relationship and what to do, reach out to one of these resources below.

Love is Respect: Call 1.866.331.9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1.800.799.7233 or text START to 88788

YWCA of Niagara Frontier Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline: (716) 433-6716