Is Your Teen Dating Safely?

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. It is important to acknowledge that there are high rates of dating violence across the United States, and those numbers are only getting higher as the pandemic continues to take its toll. Dating violence impacts people of all ages and is especially common among both teens and young adults. Recent reports indicate that up to one in three teens in the United States will experience abuse from someone they are dating before they turn 18.


Teen dating violence is defined as a pattern of behavior involving the use of, or threats of, physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and/or other abusive behavior to harm, harass or control another person with whom they have (or had in the past) an intimate relationship. It is especially important to note that teen dating violence is not exclusive to physical contact; it can include several other types of abuse as well. Just because things have not gotten physical, that does not mean that someone is not experiencing dating violence.


Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication to harm someone mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over them. Emotional abuse is often overlooked by many, and yet it usually carries the most significant long-term effects on the well-being of the victim. Common emotionally abusive tactics include: name-calling, isolating from friends/family, body shaming, stalking, and controlling social media and communication.

Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention or contact from a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the threatened person.

Sexual violence is forcing or trying to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g. sexting) when the partner does not, or cannot, consent.

Physical violence happens when one hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or by using another type of physical force.

Spiritual abuse includes using religious texts or beliefs to minimize or rationalize abusive behaviors. One may also ridicule or insult another’s religious or spiritual beliefs or use their partner’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate or shame them.


Be a Model: Teens usually have an idealistic view of romantic relationships which makes it important for them to witness adult relationships that model healthy interactions and conflict resolution.

Have Conversations: Discussing the warning signs of dating abuse (all kinds, not just physical abuse). Teens need adults who see them and are interested in them while giving them space. Casual, matter-of-fact conversations are great places to share advice and guidance. Talking about how the media portrays healthy and unhealthy relationships is also an important topic to touch upon. For example, many popular movies, TV shows, and books portray stalking as romantic or harmless when it is actually very dangerous.

Help Them Set Boundaries Early On: Healthy relationships are built upon communication, consent, boundaries, and respect. Teaching your teen to set these boundaries early on in their relationships is vital to protecting them from becoming victims of abuse. Teens will run into a number of different situations throughout their life that challenge their values and their beliefs and knowing how to set boundaries can help them stay safe and be true to who they are. Make sure your teen knows that it’s just as important to honor someone else’s boundaries as it is to ask them to honor theirs too.

loveisrespect.org is an amazing website that offers information, quizzes, and reading material about healthy relationships, dating violence, personal safety, and even how to support and help others. Through advocacy and education, teens can learn how to recognize unhealthy or abusive behaviors in relationships, where they can turn for help if they are experiencing abuse/violence, and how to support their peers.