Blog: Teen Dating Violence
Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention

Teen dating is common - about three out of every four high school seniors report that they have ever dated. Unfortunately, nearly four in 10 adolescents (both male and female) have experienced physical or sexual dating violence. Dating violence isn’t always as obvious as a black eye. It is anytime an individual purposely hurts or scares someone they are dating, and includes physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

During National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and throughout the year, Vice President Biden’s initiative, 1 is 2 Many, draws attention to this issue affecting millions of U.S teens. The Office of Adolescent Health is partnering with the Vice President and other federal agencies to raise awareness about teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships among adolescents.

Prevalence and Related Risks for Teens
More than one in three women and more than one in four men experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to a report released in December 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey is the first national study of its kind to examine intimate partner violence across the United States.

Of all females who have ever been raped, physically abused, or stalked by an intimate partner, almost 70 percent first had those experiences before age 25. And, of all rape victims, about 40 percent reported that they were first raped before age 18. The prevalence of dating violence varies across the country; however, Montana’s rate of 10 percent of high school students experiencing dating violence is the same as the national rate.

Teens who experience intimate partner, or dating, violence are at risk for a host of negative outcomes. They are four to six times more likely to become pregnant than their peers. And, in one study, they reported lower self-esteem and emotional well-being, more suicidal thoughts and attempts, and were more likely to have eating disorders than adolescents who did not experience dating violence.

Warning Signs
Parents, other caring adults and friends should watch for warning signs that a teen is experiencing dating violence: suspicious bruises or other injuries; failing grades; loss of interest in activities or hobbies that they once enjoyed; excusing their dating partner's behavior; needing to respond immediately to calls or texts from their partner; and/or fearfulness around their partner. Also, having a dating partner who is significantly (three or more years) older than the teen is a risk factor for experiencing forced sex.

The following signs may suggest that a teen is, or is at risk of, perpetrating dating violence: insulting their partner; trying to control how their partner dresses and acts; constantly texting or sending instant messages (IMs) to monitor their partner; losing their temper and being unable to control their anger; and threatening to hurt themselves or their partner in the case of a break-up. Being exposed to relationship violence as a child is linked with perpetration of dating violence, especially among males, and experiences of dating violence, especially among females.

Prevent dating violence from ever starting
Be proactive. Parents can address issues early by creating open lines of communication with their adolescent. For tips and strategies for how to start this or any important (but sensitive) conversation with your teen, visit Conversation Generation, a section of OAH’s site especially for parents.

Spread the word. If a teen’s friends are accepting of dating violence, an adolescent is more likely to be involved in a violent relationship in the future. Make sure that peer groups are educated on the significant negative effects of dating violence and the fact that it is never acceptable.

Raise awareness in your schools and community. States and communities are taking steps to stop teen dating violence. To support these efforts, the CDC developed Dating Matters™, a comprehensive teen dating violence prevention initiative based on current evidence about what works. Focused on 11– to 14–year–olds in high-risk, urban communities, it includes preventive strategies for individuals, peers, families, schools and neighborhoods. Also, Safe Dates is a school-based program designed to stop or prevent psychological, physical, and sexual dating violence. The program has been rigorously evaluated and proven to make a long-term difference in reducing rates of dating violence experienced by participants.

Source: Office of Adolescent Health, US Department of Health & Human Services (