Unhealthy dating patterns often start early and lead to a lifetime of violence, according to Choose Respect, a national initiative to help youth ages 11 to 14 avoid abusive relationships.
Students, parents, and teachers should be aware of how common teen dating violence is in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one in 11 adolescents is a victim of physical dating violence. That figure is likely even higher, considering that young people and adults alike in abusive relationships often feel too ashamed to admit involvement with a violent partner. Moreover, some youth are simply unaware of what constitutes abuse. Recognizing the signs can help teens and tweens walk away from partners who physically or emotionally mistreat them.
10 Facts About Teen Dating Violence
The facts and figures the Choose Respect initiative have compiled about teen dating violence can help youth understand dangerous patterns in relationships. If they have already experienced abuse, they can learn that they're far from alone and that finding a partner who respects them is possible.
- Each year approximately one in four adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- Approximately one in five adolescents report being a victim of emotional abuse.
- Approximately one in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
- Dating violence among their peers is reported by 54% of high school students.
- One in three teens reports knowing a friend or peer who has been physically hurt by his or her partner through violent actions which included hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, or choking.
- Eighty percent of teens believe verbal abuse is a serious issue for their age group.
- Nearly 80% of girls who have been victims of physical abuse in their dating relationships continue to date the abuser.
- Nearly 20% of teen girls who have been in a relationship said that their boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm in the event of a break-up.
- Nearly 70% of young women who have been raped knew their rapist; the perpetrator was or had been a boyfriend, friend, or casual acquaintance.
- The majority of teen dating abuse occurs in the home of one of the partners.
Fighting Teen Dating Violence
While teen dating violence is a common occurrence, it is hardly inevitable. Vigilant teachers, counselors, parents, and friends of victims can spot the signs and help the abused youth get help. Since abuse typically occurs in the homes of youths, parents should keep a watchful eye on their children's interactions with dating partners. They may also decide to forbid children from having significant others over when no adult is home to supervise. If dating violence occurs despite a parent's best efforts, the abuse victim should be directed to therapy and possibly law enforcement to file a report against the perpetrator.
The parent-child relationship plays an important role in setting up youth for successful dating partnerships. Children who have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from parents, caregivers, or others may develop trauma that makes them more likely to attract dangerous partners when they begin dating. Treating children in a loving and respectful manner and meeting their emotional needs from birth may reduce the odds that they will have an abusive relationship later.