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Home The Issue Teen Dating Violence

What is Teen Dating Violence?
Teen dating violence can be just as serious and violent as violence within an adult relationship.  Teen dating violence is not “domestic violence-lite.”   Abusive relationships can begin at your very first dating experience.  If this happens, it can affect how you interact in relationships for the rest of your life.  There are many similarities between domestic violence and teen dating violence.  It is still based on power and control: abusive behaviors that become a pattern, which becomes a cycle that is harder and harder to break no matter how young or old you are. 

But there are unique differences between teen relationships and adult relationships.  It’s important to understand these differences because they can act as barriers for teens to speak up and get help. 

What are the differences between teen dating violence and domestic violence?
First of all, “teen relationships” are hard to define.  A wide range of terms applies to different dating situations, from hook-ups to “friends with benefits” to casual group hang-outs. Abuse can occur in any of these situations. However, teens may not identify abuse in these relationships because they are more casual.

Often, teenagers feel disconnected from supportive adult relationships, and may be reluctant to seek any help from adults where trust is not established. Teens may not feel comfortable speaking to an adult about their relationship, or even disclosing it.  Research shows they are more likely to speak to a friend first.  That’s why it’s so important for teens to learn about the warning signs of abuse, and to learn about resources available to them online and in their community!

Teens who are new to dating may enter into relationships with pre-conceived ideas they have picked up from popular culture and the media (TV, movies, music, websites, their friends and more)  That can cause them to romanticize abusive behavior, for example by thinking that extreme jealousy is an appropriate expression of love.  

It can be harder for you to get away from an abuser if you’re a teen… limited mobility (no car, no driver’s license, lack of income) and overlapping circles of friends can be issues.  If you’re at the same school, and share the same friends, it makes it that much harder to put any distance between yourself and the abuser. Breaking up and staying away can feel very difficult or impossible.

What are the similarities between teen dating violence and domestic violence?
Dating violence involves a pattern of control and power exerted over a boyfriend or girlfriend.

As with domestic violence, the abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, or financial. Teen dating violence affects youth regardless of race, ethnicity, class, education, religion, or sexual orientation.

Dating Abuse: The Facts - common questions about dating abuse

Data about teen dating violence
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 

  • 72% of 8th and 9th graders reportedly “date”
  • 1 in 4 adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year
A Liz Claiborne Inc. sponsored survey conducted by the Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) in 2006 reported:

  • 1 in 3 girls who have been in a serious relationship say they've been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner

Further data on teen dating violence:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What Are The Signs?
Though every situation is different, the following types of behavior by a boyfriend or girlfriend are signs of an abusive relationship:

  • Is extremely jealous or possessive
  • Tries to control what you wear, where you go, and who you see
  • Tells you that nothing you do is worthwhile
  • Tells you that you will never amount to anything and no one else would want you
  • Constantly belittles you for the way you look
  • Tries to control your spiritual or religious life; humiliates you for your beliefs
  • Is violent; has a history of harming household members, including pets
  • Has hit, pushed, choked, restrained, kicked, slapped or otherwise struck you
  • Threatens to kill you or commit suicide
  • Pressures you to have sex, take drugs or drink alcohol
  • Blames you for his/her bad behavior, accuses you of causing it
  • Uses social networking sites and/or texting to intimidate/control/humiliate/stalk you
  • Destroys your property
  • Threatens to "out" you if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender

What Can I Do?

Get Help

If you and/or someone you know is experiencing dating violence or you are concerned about your or another’s safety, call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474 or visit

Other resources for youth include:
Break the Cycle:
Start Strong Boston, Boston Public Health Commission:
The SafeSpace:
Maria Talk:
That’s Not


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