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Parents, Friends, the Community – We Can All Help Prevent Teen Dating Violence

By Rachel Madden, Crisis Care Manager at The Nest

What comes to your mind when you think of domestic violence? Do you think of physical violence? Or maybe violence within a marriage relationship? Maybe you picture a male as the perpetrator and a female as the victim.

While these examples are all possible situations where domestic violence can occur, many people don’t realize that violence also occurs in dating relationships. Dating violence is actually most common with young people, both male and female, between the ages of 16 and 24. In fact, young women in that age group “experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence – almost triple the national average,” and one in four females will experience violence or abuse in a dating relationship before they turn 18.

Sometimes when we hear the word violence, we only think about physical violence, such as hitting or strangling. These are dramatic examples, allowing us to justify verbal assaults with statements like “well, he/she has never hit me.”  But intimate partner abuse can include much more than physical violence. Manipulation, consistent yelling, isolating you from your friends and/or family, controlling the finances, and forced or pressured sex are all examples of abuse that can occur in an intimate dating relationship.

While these activities can be harder for an outsider to see, they are far too common. In fact, according to, “One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.”

These statistics show that violence within teen dating relationships is much more common than we think. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and it’s time to raise awareness of this issue and let our friends and family experiencing violence in a dating relationship know that we are here to support them!

There are many resources available for teens in an abusive dating relationship – see hotlines and website links at the bottom of this page. However, it’s important to remember that we cannot force people to change. If the teen in your life is resistant to your help, remind them that you love them and want them to trust you. This will help them feel comfortable talking to you when/if they change their mind.

Prevention is also important! As a parent, you can:

– Make examples of healthy relationships part of your normal conversation.

– Normalize affirmations so your child knows that you value them and respect them the way they are.

– Do your best to prevent your children from being exposed to other types of violence.

– Discuss safe sexual practices.

– Discuss and model appropriate methods of handling conflict.

As a friend, you can vow to stand up against violence when you see it.

– A good program to look into is the Green Dot project.  “A green dot is simply your individual choice at any given moment to make our community safer.” The Green Dot Violence Prevention Program encourages bystanders to speak up and speak out against violence and bullying.  You can be a green dot at your school and encourage those around you to do the same.

– You can also check-in on your friends that are in dating relationships and make sure they feel safe with their partner.  Never assume that violence is not happening – you are being a good friend when you ask the “nosy” questions!

When you find out that any kind of violence or abuse is occurring in a teen dating relationship (or any relationship), you can call any of these hotlines below. Check out their websites for more information on ways to prevent abuse and other programs you can bring to your school or organization.

Love is Respect:  866-331-9474

National Domestic Violence Hotline:  800-799-7233

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network Hotline:  800-656-4673