• Objectives
  • Introduction
  • What is Teen Dating Violence
  • Prevalence of Teenage Domestic Violence
  • Influences on Teens in Violent Relationships
  • Warning Signs of Abuse
  • What Teenagers Need
  • Safety Plan


  • To understand teen dating violence
  • To understand the prevalence of teen dating violence
  • To understand influence on teens in violent relationships
  • To know the warning signs of teen dating violence
  • To understand what teens need
  • To help prepare a teen’s safety plan


Domestic violence is not just an adult problem. Teenagers often experience violence from another teen in dating relationships. Statistics show that one in three teenagers has experienced violence in a dating relationship. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice, “Women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rates of intimate violence – nearly 20 per 1000 women.”1 In teen dating violence, one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through abuse. Dating violence crosses all racial, economic and social lines. Because of the risk of serious injury in violent dating relationships, young women need to be well informed and have a dating safety plan.

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence is abusive and violent behavior in teen dating relationships. As in other forms of abuse, the perpetrator seeks to control and dominate the victim. The abusive behavior includes:

  • Verbal and emotional abuse, ranging from name-calling to emotional blackmail and stalking, including cyber-stalking.
  • Sexual abuse, which includes a spectrum of behaviors ranging from sexual slurs to intimidation to forcing the teenager to engage in any type of sexual activity, including rape.
  • Physical violence, which includes shoving, slapping, pinching, and the use of weapons.

Prevalence of Teenage Domestic Violence

(See references below for sources of statistics)

  • One in 10 teen girls and one in 11 teen boys admits to having experienced physical violence in a dating relationship in the past year.
  • One in three teens indicate they know someone who has been physically assaulted or hurt by a dating partner.
  • One in five teens ages 13 and 14 that have been in a relationship know someone who has been hit in anger by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • One in five teens admits to being emotionally abused in the past year.
  • Among 11 to 14 year-olds who have been in relationships, 62% of them know friends who have been verbally abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Approximately one in five teen girls has been physically or sexually abused by their partner.
  • Seventy percent of teen girls who have been sexually assaulted knew their attacker. The attacker was a friend, boyfriend or casual acquaintance.
  • More than half of girls surveyed reported mutual aggression in their relationship – meaning that both partners were physically aggressive toward each other.

Influences on Teens in Violent Relationships

AVA gratefully acknowledges the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence Newsletter, Winter 1999, for the following information on domestic violence among teenagers.

Teen dating violence often is hidden because teenagers typically
  • are inexperienced with dating relationships
  • are pressured by peers to act violently
  • want independence from parents
  • have “romantic” views of love
Young men may believe
  • they have the right to “control” their female partners in any way necessary
  • “masculinity” is physical aggressiveness
  • they “possess” their partner
  • they should demand intimacy
  • they may lose respect if they are attentive and supportive toward their girlfriends
Young women may believe:
  • they are responsible for solving problems in their relationships
  • their boyfriend’s jealousy, possessiveness and even physical abuse, is “romantic”
  • abuse is “normal” because their friends are also being abused
  • there is no one to ask for help

Warning Signs of Abuse

Common clues that indicate a teenager may be experiencing dating violence.

  • Physical signs of injury
  • Truancy, dropping out of school
  • Failing grades
  • Indecision
  • Use of drugs/alcohol
  • Pregnancy
  • Emotional outburst
  • Isolation
  • Changes in mood or personality

What Teenagers Need

  • To be seen
  • To be heard
  • To be believed
  • To be safe
  • To be protected
  • To be loved
  • To be supported
  • To be cared for and nurtured
What Teens Need to Know About Their Situation
  • To know that the violence is not their fault
  • To know there is hope
  • To know God is present
What Teens Need to Believe
  • They bear the unique image of God
  • They have immeasurable worth and value because of God’s image
  • They have incredible power through their ability to make responsible choices
  • They have the authority to refuse anything and anybody that would negate, deny, or disrespect their unique image of God
  • They have the courage to stand against oppression, domination, pain, and suffering

Safety Plan

When counseling teens focus on their safety, encourage them to take time to think about a safety plan so that they know in advance what to do. Considerations should include answering these questions:

  • Where would they go for help?
  • Who can they call?
  • How would they escape a violent situation?
  • What precautions can be taken to be safer?


1. Bureau of Justice Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence, May 2000.


“National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Initiation, Teen Dating Violence Facts,” American Bar Association 2006.

Statistic Sources

1. Choose Respect: Dating Abuse Statistics. Centers for Disease Control. March 15, 2009.
2. Teen Dating Violence. The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. March 15, 2009.
3. Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. March 15, 2009.
4. Teen Relationship Study. National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline. March 15, 2009.