Opinion: Teen Dating Violence: Facts, warning signs, and strategies

By Jenna Christie-Tabron

February 28, 2024

“Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, yes. This is what happened. And I will choose how the story ends.”

-Brené Brown

Intimate Partner Violence between adolescents, also known as Teen Dating Violence (TDV), continues to be a prevalent crisis in society. 

The effects of dating violence persist long after the relationship ends and can negatively impact an adolescent’s physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. By experiencing TDV, adolescents are more likely to experience other types of violence and victimization later in life, challenges with substance use, psychiatric conditions, poor physical health outcomes, and engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. 

With February being TDV Awareness Month, here is some education on this public health crisis, including warning signs and ways to promote healthy adolescent relationships.

Some facts about Teen Dating Violence:

  • TDV is more than physical abuse. It also includes emotional or psychological abuse through teasing, name-calling, bullying, persistent surveillance, sexual abuse and harassment, and stalking. It can occur in-person, digitally through text or email, or virtually through various social media platforms.
  • Though statistics vary, a multi-year study by the US Department of Justice estimates that nearly 70% of adolescents experience victimization through teen dating violence; that percentage increases if the adolescent identifies as LGBTQIA+.
  • TDV has a higher incidence of bidirectional violence, meaning that both parties are perpetrators of violence instead of the typical victim-abuser scenario. Bidirectional violence reportedly occurs in 84% of TDV cases and is most often associated with physical harm, whereas, in unilateral instances, violence is more likely to include imbalanced power dynamics, control, and coercion.

Warning Signs

  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Frequent use of humiliation and intimidation tactics to demean or belittle the other person
  • Volatile temper
  • Invading one’s privacy
  • Showing up unannounced or uninvited
  • Threats of violence
  • Acts of aggression towards items (e.g., hitting the wall, throwing objects)
  • Grabbing or restraining the other person
  • Demanding constant communication
  • Leaving unwanted gifts
  • Accelerated feelings of affection (i.e., claiming to be in love after a short period of time)
  • Obsession with the other person’s whereabouts
  • Sudden truancy
  • Sudden behavioral changes

Intervention and Prevention Strategies

  • Talk about relationships. Teenagers learn a great deal of information from their peers, television, and social media. To ensure they get the correct information about developing healthy relationships, initiate conversations about consent, age-appropriate behaviors, and overall healthy relationships.
  • Know the risk factors. There are many risk factors for dating violence, such as substance use, bullying, mental health challenges, and history of child maltreatment.
  • Lead by example. Minimizing exposure to family violence by modeling healthy relationships is one of the best protective factors for teenagers. Healthy adult relationships show respect for both parties, trust, and proper boundaries, and lead to healthy home environments where teenagers can feel safe and protected.
  • Teach healthy communication. Passive, passive-aggressive, and aggressive communication styles are ineffective. Teach teenagers to be assertive when speaking to others. Assertive communication eliminates misinterpretation and conveys confidence in a respectful manner.
  • Speak up. Sometimes it can be very difficult to know when to intervene in a situation. You may think, “am I overreacting?” or “they are just being kids.” However, the danger of dismissing the warning signs is far too great a risk to take. Therefore, it’s best to stop a situation before it begins. Speak up when you see something concerning. Doing so tells all parties that someone is vigilant and aware of the relationship dynamics.

If you or someone you know is experiencing teen dating violence, contact the Love is Respect National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522.

To learn more about Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, visit: www.freeartsaz.org.

Author

  • Jenna Christie-Tabron

    Jenna Christie-Tabron is the Free Arts Clinical Director and mental health clinician who has dedicated her career to helping children and adolescents achieve their highest potential. She has worked in school, psychiatric, and judicial settings throughout the United States and The Bahamas. At Free Arts, she works to help the organization maintain a trauma-informed framework for their art-based programs that are designed to build resilience in children, teens, and young adults who experienced trauma.

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