February is considered the month of love, but it also serves as a reminder that romantic relationships can turn violent. Recognizing that teen dating violence “is a serious violation that can affect a young person’s safety, development, and sense of comfort,” President Barack Obama dedicated February to Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in 2016. Teen dating violence impacts teens as well as their parents, teachers, friends, and the communities they live in, but it is a preventable issue that deserves recognition.
Teen Dating Violence Definition and Statistics
Teen dating violence (TDV) can include the following:
- Physical force, such as kicking, hitting, pinching, and shoving
- Emotional abuse, including shaming, teasing, name-calling, bullying, controlling, consistent monitoring, and isolation
- Sexual assault, including forcing a partner into engaging in a sex act without consent
The following statistics show how common teen dating violence is:
- 1 in 10 teens will experience physical dating violence.
- In any given year, nearly 1.5 million high school students experience physical dating abuse.
- 25 percent of teen girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.
- 29 percent of adolescents experience verbal and psychological abuse.
- Youths ages 12–19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault of any age group nationwide.
The Impact of Teen Dating Violence
Girls and young women are more often the target of physical and sexual violence, and they experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, triple the national average. They are likely to suffer long-term consequences affecting their behavior and health that can include:
- Drug abuse
- Eating disorders
- Negative body image
- Poor academic performance
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Suicide attempts
- Unhealthy sexual behaviors
Being physically or sexually abused makes a teen girl six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to acquire a sexually transmitted disease.
Long-term effects of TDV can carry into adulthood and surface in future dating relationships and marriages. Children who are victims of violence or who witness violence between their parents are likely to continue the cycle, bringing violent or emotional behavior to relationships with friends, classmates, and teachers, as well as to their future relationships.
Risk Factors for Teen Dating Violence
Teen dating violence is preventable if risk factors are reduced. The following risk factors contribute to adolescent violence:
- Having a history of stressful life events or trauma
- Living in poverty or a disadvantaged home
- Being exposed to community or neighborhood violence
- Participating in risky behaviors, such as alcohol abuse, substance abuse, or violence
- Having begun dating at an early age
- Becoming sexually active prior to age 16
- Having behavior problems
- Having a friend who experiences dating violence
- Participating in peer violence or having friends who do so
- Believing that dating violence is acceptable or are accepting of rape myths and violence against women
- Having begun menstruating at an early age
- Having been exposed to abusive parenting, inconsistent discipline, or lack of supervision, monitoring, and warmth
- Using emotional disengagement and blaming to cope
- Exhibiting antisocial behaviors
- Having aggressive conflict-management styles
- Not being inclined to seek help
Resources for Victims and Survivors
Supporting the development of healthy, respectful relationships can reduce teen dating violence, as can teaching teens how to manage feelings and communicate clearly.
Teen dating violence victims can turn to parents, teachers, counselors, youth advisers, spiritual advisers, and health-care providers for help. Unfortunately, however, these victims often remain silent about their abuse.
Those willing and able to reach out for help—and those who are aware of TDV in others—are encouraged to contact the following local groups for more information:
- San Diego Youth Services: 619-241-0608
- Center for Community Solutions: 888-385-4657 (confidential)
- Community Resource Center (CRC): 877-633-1112 or email
The CRC’s focus in February is on educating youth to understand the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship and to provide teens with the skills they need to manage feelings and communicate in a healthy way. Part of this February’s resources are two virtual events:
- Orange Day Virtual Q&A on February 9, 10:30 a.m.–12 p.m. (register here), a day to wear orange and tune in to a question-and-answer forum in which youth leaders ask questions of local and state policymakers
- A Conversation About Healthy Teen Relationships on February 23, 6 p.m.–7 p.m. (register here) conducted by teen dating violence prevention experts about how parents, coaches, advisers, mentors, and the other adults in teens’ lives can talk to teens about healthy relationships
National resources include:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233)
- National Centers for Victims of Crime: 800-FYI-CALL (394-2255)
- National Dating Abuse Helpline: 866-331-9474
- Love Is Respect website, which offers a chat line ; text messaging (text “LOVEIS” to 22522); and a phone line (866-331-9474 or 800-787-3224 for TTY)
Love Is Respect is a full-service organization that offers free, confidential, teen-friendly resources such as:
- creating a safety plan when violence is imminent
- a list of warning signs of abuse
- a chart called The Relationship Spectrum that outlines characteristics of healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships
- resources on helping friends, family members, and roommates dealing with teen violence
- a quiz on healthy relationships
Herrick Library Resources
The following books and DVDs can be reserved and checked out via curbside pickup or on OverDrive, where indicated*:
- Crisis: How to Help Yourself and Others in Distress or Danger, by Lee Ann Hoff
- I’m Saying No: Standing Up Against Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Pressure, by Beverly Engel
- *No More Excuses: Dismantling Rape Culture, by Amber Keyser
- Therapy Games for Teens: 150 Activities to Improve Self-Esteem, Communication, and Coping Skills, by Kevin Gruzewski
- *What They Don’t Teach Teens: Life Safety Skills for Teens and the Adults Who Care for Them, by Jonathan Cristall
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Violence Prevention: Dating Matters, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/datingmatters/index.html; City of San Diego, Office of the City Attorney, Educating Teens About Healthy Relationships to Prevent Domestic Violence, https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/nr201006a.pdf; Community Resource Center, February 2021: Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, https://crcncc.org/february-2021-teen-dating-violence-awareness-month/; Love Is Respect, https://www.loveisrespect.org/; San Diego Domestic Violence Council, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, https://www.sdcoe.net/student-services/student-support/Documents/Teen%20Dating%20Violence%20Prevention%20Month%20Toolkit.pdf; The White House, Presidential Proclamation—National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/29/presidential-proclamation-national-teen-dating-violence-awareness-and; Youth.gov, Dating Violence Prevention, https://youth.gov/youth-topics/teen-dating-violence, and Risk Factors, https://youth.gov/youth-topics/teen-dating-violence/risk; Youth.gov, Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, https://youth.gov/feature-article/teen-dating-violence-awareness-and-prevention-month#:~:text=February%20is%20National%20Teen%20Dating,and%20promote%20safe%2C%20healthy%20relationships