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When Teen Dating Turns Violent

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J.Adderton has 27 years experience as a BSN, MSN .

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Teen Dating Violence Happening At Alarming Rate

Healthy romantic relationships can boost social skills and emotional growth in teens. Unfortunately, a romantic relationship became abusive to roughly 1.5 million U.S. teens over past year.  Read on to learn more about teen dating abuse and violence.

When Teen Dating Turns Violent
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Do you remember your first teen romance?  You may remember the experience as exciting and fun, with possibly a little heartbreak mixed in.  Healthy dating as a teen helps build the social skills we need for positive relationships as adults.  However, dating is much different for the millions of U.S. teens who experience teen dating violence (TDV) every year. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and a great opportunity to raise awareness by discussing this complex issue.

More Common Than You Think

TDV is widespread and any teen can become a victim.  It’s difficult to know just how many teens are affected because many don’t speak up when it happens to them.  Let’s take a look at some alarming statistics:

  • 1 in 3 girls are victims of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.  (This number far exceeds the rates of other types of teen violence, such as fights or bullying).
  • 1 in 10 high school students have physically hurt by a dating partner
  • Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive romantic relationship ever told anyone about the abuse
  • 81% of parents believe TDV is not an issue or admit  they don’t know if it’s an issue
  • 43% of reported cases of dating violence occurred in a school building or on school grounds.
  • 50% of 14-24  years have experienced digital dating abuse.
  • 69% of women and 54% of men who have been physically or sexually abused, or stalked by a dating partner, first experienced abuse between the ages of 11-24.

Types of Abuse

Dating violence is complex and can be verbal and emotional, physical, or sexual in nature. Flirty behaviors, such as teasing, is common in teen romance.  But, these behaviors can become abusive and lead to serious forms of TDV.

Verbal & Emotional Abuse

An abuser uses emotional abuse when they want to control another person by harming the victim’s self-worth and confidence. The ultimate goal is to limit their partner’s ability to think and act. independently.  Name-calling, bullying, belittling and shaming are just some of the ways an abuser uses to intimidate and scare. As the abuse continues, the person being abused isolates themselves from family and friends.

Physical Abuse

This type of abuse occurs when a partner uses physical force, such as slapping, shoving, hair pulling, kicking, forcibly confining or punching.  The abuser may also use, or threaten to use, a weapon to hurt their partner.

Sexual Abuse

This occurs when an abuser forces a partner to engage in a sex act without consent.  Sexual abuse includes unwanted sexual touching, using pressure or force to get a partner to consent, rape or attempted rape or sexual acts with someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Sexual abuse can also be nonphysical. For example, an abuser threatens to spread hurtful rumors if a partner refuses to have sex.


Dating violence can also take place electronically, such as persistent texting.  Stalking is also a form of TDV and is a pattern of harassing or threatening actions to cause fear in a partner.  This can include repetitive texting or posting unwanted pictures of a partner online.

Who Is At Risk

Any teen could experience TDV, but studies suggest the risk is greater in teens who

  • Have a history of trauma, such as past sexual abuse or stressful life events
  • Witnessing violence in the home
  • Live in poverty, come from disadvantaged homes or receive child protective services
  • Experience community violence
  • Abuse substances (alcohol, prescription drugs, street drugs)
  • Begin dating at an early age, and/or engage sexual activity before the age of 16
  • Believe dating violence is acceptable
  • Have low self-esteem, anger or depressed mood

To learn more about risk factors, visit this Youth.Gov website.

Health Consequences

TDV can have serious short-term and long-term health consequences.  Youth who experience TDV are also more likely experience:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Substance use disorders and other risky behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A higher risk for abuse in college and later in life

Take Action

Learning more about TDV is the first step in prevention.  It is important to have conversations with teens about what a healthy romantic relationship looks like. These resources are a great place to start:

CDC - Preventing Teen Dating Violence

Teen Dating Violence Website

LoveIsRespect.org-Dating Abuse Statistics

National Criminal Justice Reference Center - Teen Dating Violence

I am a nurse with over 25 years experience. I have enjoyed the diversity of nursing specialty areas, especially education and project management. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out my allnurses.com blog.

7 Followers; 117 Articles; 33,802 Profile Views; 380 Posts

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