Warning Signs of Teen Violence

In 2007, approximately ten percent of American teens of both sexes reported that being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend sometime during the preceding twelve-month period, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a comprehensive statistical monitoring project conducted on a biennial basis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the same survey, more than 11 percent of teenaged girls reported that they had, at some point, been forced to engage in sexual intercourse against their will. Other studies have shown that one in five girls in high school has suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a boyfriend or intimate partners. Dating violence puts teens at greater risk of physical injury, up to and including death, as well as depression, suicide, drug abuse, unhealthy eating habits, and risky sexual behaviors that can lead to unwanted pregnancy, sexual violence, and serious illnesses, including HIV/AIDS. 

Information for Teens:

The first stirring of romantic and sexual feelings can be an exciting time for an adolescent, and dating can be lots of fun. However, being intimate with another person can make a teen vulnerable to violence at the hands of his or her romantic partner. Teens who experience abuse, whether physical, sexual, or emotional, may find themselves feeling confused and ashamed and unsure of where to turn. It is important for any victim of abuse to understand that he or she is not at fault. It is also important for victims to seek out help. The best thing to do is to confide in a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult. If that is not possible, a teen who is experiencing dating violence should turn to her friends for support. Nonetheless, the reality is that many teens who are victims of abuse at the hands of a romantic partner tell no one. For teens who cannot bring themselves to tell anyone about what they are going through, there are many non-profit organizations and resource centers that are available to help. 

  • The Safe Space: The Safe Space bills itself as “the most comprehensive resource on the web to learn about dating violence.” This site offers educational resources for teens who suspect that they may be involved in an abusive relationship but do not know where to turn, as well as tips for staying safe when one has been a victim of dating violence. One entire section is devoted to the use by abusers of technologies such as texting and social media to harass, stalk, and threaten their victims and how to guard against it.
  • Dating Violence: A Dating Bill of Rights: This page from the website of the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers information about teen violence, including signs that can serve to warn teens that a dating partner may become abusive, a sidebar that sets out a “dating bill of rights” and a section on safety planning that encourages teens to confide in adults about abuse and advises them to change lockers, phone numbers, and routes to school and keep numbers of trusted friends, adults, and community resources at the ready. 

Information for Parents Who Fear Their Children May Be Victims of Dating Violence:

Before parents know it, their children are adolescents and demonstrating an interest in romantic relationships with their peers. Nearly three-quarters of students in the ninth-grade report that they are engaging, or have engaged, in dating behavior. Although dating is a natural and healthy part of growing up, the prevalence of violence in teen dating relationships is alarming. Because of the long-term effects of dating violence on victims, parents should be aware of the potential for abuse in teen relationships and the signs of an abusive relationship. One of the risk factors for being both a victim and a perpetrator of teen violence is inadequate parental supervision, involvement, and support. However, even attentive parents can miss the signs of dating violence, and victims are often reluctant to divulge the details of their intimate relationships with their families. Parents can address the problem head on by talking to their children about dating violence before it happens and getting involved with school and community efforts to reduce the incidence of abusive intimate relationships among teens.

  • Choose Respect:  Choose Respect is an initiative co-sponsored by the Division of Violence Prevention, an office of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), which operates under the auspices of the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The aim of Choose Respect is the prevention of dating violence through education and the fostering of healthy intra-family relationships. The Choose Respect website provides tips and resources for parents who wish to talk to their adolescent children about dating and dating violence. 
  • Warning Signs: This page from the Choose Respect website offers parents a comprehensive list of warning signs, both signs that a teen is currently in an abusive relationship and signs of an abusive person who has the potential to perpetrate violence against an intimate partner.

Information for Educators on Dating Violence Resources:

Many victims of teen dating violence do not tell family and friends about what is happening to them. It is therefore imperative, given the deep and far-reaching consequences of dating violence, that educators recognize the signs of this form of abuse among their students and be prepared with resources for victims and thief friends and families. Although detecting dating violence and providing support to victims is vital, it is equally important that educators engage in prevention by implementing in the classroom educational tools and provided by various governmental agencies and advocacy groups. Preventing dating violence depends just as much upon recognizing in students the signs of a potential abuser as well as the signs of a potential victim. 

  • National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, Teen Dating Violence: The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center is a federally sponsored and funded program for community members whose aim is to prevent violence among America’s youth. This page of the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center offers a comprehensive list of resources for educators, healthcare professionals, and activists seeking to prevent teen dating violence and intervene in abusive relationships between adolescents. Included are links to articles on confronting, treating, and responding to teens involved in violent dating relationships and screening teens for dating violence.
  • Teen Dating Violence Facts: This fact sheet, compiled by the National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Initiative of the American Bar Association, provides a comprehensive collection of facts and statistics gathered from numerous academic studies, federal and state agencies, and advocacy organizations regarding the incidence, cause, prevention, and consequences of teen dating violence.

  • Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships: This article from the National Institute of Justice Journal, a publication of the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides a thorough analysis of the causation and dynamics of teen dating violence, drawing on federal research studies and statistics. 

  • 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data: Health Risk Behaviors by Sex: Every two years, the CDC conducts a comprehensive survey of American youth, covering a wide range of behaviors that put teens at risk of death, disability, and other adverse consequences. The respondents are students in the ninth through twelfth grades in public and private high schools across the United States. This page breaks down responses by sex with respect to behaviors whose incidence varies significantly between males and females, including dating violence.
  • Physical Dating Violence Among High School Students--United States, 2003: This fact sheet issued by the CDC analyzes survey responses related to dating violence collected through the Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered in 2003. The authors conclude that the data reveal an urgent need for prevention programs aimed at children and teens as young as 11 years old with the goal of reducing the incidence of teen dating violence and associated risk behaviors, as well as of the adverse consequences that correlate with these behaviors. 
  • Intimate Partner Violence: Dating Violence Fact Sheet: This comprehensive fact sheet issued by the CDC defines dating violence as “physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship.” It includes a number of statistics on the incidence of dating violence among teens culled not only from CDC-sponsored surveys but also from other scholarly studies and provides a lengthy bibliography of sources, including articles from refereed journal articles.  
  • Understanding Teen Violence, 2008: This CDC-authored fact sheet defines dating violence, explains why dating violence among teens is a serious public health issue, and identifies some of the risk factors for becoming a perpetrator or victim of dating violence, including low self-esteem, abnormally aggressive behavior towards others, anger management problems, poor social skills, inadequate parental supervision, and the occurrence of physical abuse or other violence in the home.

Information for Friends of Teens Who May Be Involved in Relationship Violence:

Teens who are victims of dating violence may be reluctant to confide in adults. They are often more likely to turn to a close friend for support. Even if a teen tries to conceal ongoing abuse from her peers, a close friend will often be the first to notice changes in the teen’s behavior and appearance that are the hallmark signs of dating violence. But the friends of a teen experiencing dating violence are still kids themselves. They may be unsure of how to help or what resources are available. The links below provide resources for teens who suspect that a friend is involved in a violent dating relationship or who want to address the problem of dating violence in the larger community.

  • Love is Respect: Support for a Friend: This page from the website for the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline offers information for friends of victims of dating violence, including signs of dating violence and a list of do’s and don’ts for helping and responding to a friend who confides that she is a victim of abuse.
  • Talk to an Abusive Friend: This page from the website for the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline offers guidance for teens for confronting friends whom they believe to be the abuser in a relationship marred by dating violence.
  • Break the Cycle: The mission of Break the Cycle is to empower youth to end domestic violence. Break the Cycle sponsors a youth activism program and offers training to young volunteers who seek to raise awareness of dating violence among fellow teens. 

  • How Can I Help My Friend?: This page from the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers tips and resources for friends of victims of dating violence as well as signs and symptoms that a friend is being abused.
  • Peer Ambassador Program: This page provides teens with information about joining the Love is Respect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline Peer Ambassador Program. Peer Ambassadors volunteer to serve as peer educators and resources for other young people in their schools and local communities. The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline website provides links to an awareness toolkit that ambassadors and other teens can draw upon in their efforts to help friends who are victims of dating violence and address the problem of dating violence among their peers.

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