While dating can be a way for youth to learn vital relationship skills such as communication, trust, honesty, and compromise, it can also bring forth many challenges.
Teen dating violence is the sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional abuse within an adolescent dating relationship.
A youthful relationship consisting of the following qualities may be dangerous:
- Dating at an early age. More susceptible than older adolescents to peer pressure, it is common for younger adolescents to be easily influenced by their peers. Peers are a key component in influencing adolescent decisions about risky behaviors like having sex.
- Dating an older partner. Before an adolescent is developmentally or emotionally ready, some older partners may push the younger partner to have sex, pressuring the younger one into undergoing the act. The age difference can carry legal consequences when brought to authorities.
An adolescent has many stages of learning, and not being fully educated on the repercussions of having sex, there is a higher risk of pregnancy or contracting a Sexually Transmitted Disease.
Having unrealistic expectations
There is often a false sense of reality in youth relationships. Their expectations may force progress, causing an unhealthy connection. Often, the more relationships advance differently than expected, the more adolescents experience poor mental health and overall misperception of their worth.
Signs of abuse
Teens who are abuse victims are more likely to develop low self-esteem, issues of depression and anxiety and turn to drugs and alcohol for an escape. The best way to help teens who are victims of emotional abuse is to understand what the signs look like.
Signs of emotional abuse in teen dating relationships include:
- Teens withdrawn from normal activities of interest.
- Random outbursts or mood swings.
- Expressing immense fear of upsetting their partner.
- Reluctance to engage in activities without their partner, for fear of retribution.
- Rather low self-esteem and self-worth.
- Drug and alcohol use.
- Self-harming and/or suicidal behaviors.
Many teens are jumping into very intimate relationships, while still learning about the compromise, patience, communication, and trust required to maintain a balanced relationship, which can be confusing for young adults.
Relationships are more likely to fail when partners are young and immature. Unfortunately, this results in a surplus of teens experiencing teen dating violence in romantic relationships. Each year, 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. In one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
Dating violence prevention
Teen dating violence can be prevented, especially when teens are empowered through family, friends, and other (including teachers, coaches, mentors, and youth group leaders) who exemplify the importance of a healthy relationship. It is important to create safe spaces where abuse in a relationship is not tolerated.
Send the message that abuse will not be accepted in any form. Do not be afraid to reach out to those you can confide in. Preventing future cases of abuse starts with addressing it in the first place.
If you feel you or a loved one is in an abusive relationship and needs help, contact the Integrated Resilience Team members of Sharon Kozak at 623-856-2716 or Jarmel Bell at 623-856-3602; or the Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, a 24-hour/365 days national web-based and toll-free telephone helpline at (866) 331-9474 or email loveisrespect.org.