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Teen Dating Violence

Unfortunately, teen dating violence is a serious problem throughout the country. Many people do not understand the unique dynamics that play in a teen violence situation and therefore, it can be difficult for friends or family members of someone who is being affected by teen dating violence to recognize it for what it is and to take appropriate actions to help to protect someone who is going through this situation. Teen dating violence can lead to significant injuries that are both physical and emotional.

Unhealthy relationships, unfortunately, can start early on and last a lifetime. Teenagers in particular may be more susceptible and vulnerable to situations in which dating violence occurs. Name calling and teasing, for example, might be interpreted as a normal part of a typical relationship. However, these behaviors can become problematic over time and can even develop into more severe forms of violence.

Defining Dating Violence

Teen dating violence is classified as a sexual, psychological, emotional or physical violence that occurs within a dating relationship. This behavior also incorporates stalking. This can happen in person or can occur electronically and may involve someone that a teen is currently dating or has previously dated. Some other phrases are used to describe teen dating violence but all refer to the same detrimental, controlling and manipulative behavior that may lead to critical injuries. These include:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Dating abuse
  • Relationship abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Relationship violence
  • Domestic violence

Dating violence has both negative short-term and long-term effects and many teens choose not to come forward with concerns or reports of dating violence because they are afraid to tell their family members and friends. They may anticipate escalation by the person who is carrying out the dating violence to begin with or may be under the impression that their friends and family members will not believe them. A CBC report from 2017 found that approximately 4% of men and 7% of women who have ever experienced physical violence, rape or stalking by an intimate partner first experience a type of partner violence prior to 18 years of age. Furthermore, the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in 2013 identified that as many as 10% of high school students reported sexual victimization and physical victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months prior.

Consequences of Teen Dating Violence

Teens are heavily influenced by their experiences and expectations in relationships as they develop emotionally. While healthy relationship behaviors can contribute to positive emotional development, violent, abusive and unhealthy relationships can also have negative effects over the short and long term. Teens who experience dating violence are more likely to encounter the following:

  • Thinking about suicide
  • Participating in anti-social behaviors
  • Engaging in unhealthy behaviors like alcohol or drug use
  • Symptoms of anxiety and depression

Those individuals who are victims of teen dating violence are also at greater risk of dating violence at the college level.

Understanding Dating Violence

Managing difficult emotions like jealousy and anger, communicating with a partner and treating others with respect are ways to keep relationships from developing into violence. Teens often receive messages about how to behave and what to expect in relationships based on the media, their peers and adults in their lives. Unfortunately, in many situations, these examples suggest that violence in a relationship is normal or even expected. There are multiple reasons why dating violence occurs and the risks of having an unhealthy dating violence relationship increases for teens who:

  • Use illegal substances or drugs
  • Have conflicts with their partner
  • Experience violence in the home
  • Are anxious, depressed or have other trauma symptoms
  • Believe that dating violence is okay
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have a friend involved in dating violence

Dating violence can be prevented when organizations, communities, families and teens work together to implement effective preventive strategies and to talk to teens who are currently experiencing dating violence early on.

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