What to Do When Faced with Teen Dating Violence By BreAnna Walker


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen dating violence is more than physical abuse. It can also be sexual, emotional, and psychological. Although some think teen dating violence isn’t a serious issue our society faces, loveisrespect, a program of the nonprofit National Domestic Violence Hotline that seeks to eliminate teen dating abuse, reports that nearly 1.5 million high school students report some sort of abuse from a dating partner in one year. If that number still doesn’t seem like a lot, this means that 1 in 3 adolescents are victims of dating violence. 

A major issue with teen dating violence is a lack of knowledge on the subject. When we think about intimate partner violence, we are more likely to think of “spousal abuse,” or “battered wives,” or “domestic violence” than we are to envision teenagers. But with recognition of teen dating violence as a widespread problem, we can educate the public on the issue. This will help so many individuals heal, as well as prevent future occurrences of violence.

What are signs of teen dating violence?

According to Break the Cycle, an organization devoted to ending dating abuse and promoting healthy relationships for people ages 12-24, the following may signal an unhealthy relationship:

One partner . . .

. . . checks the other’s cell phone, e-mail, or social networks without permission.

. . . demonstrates extreme jealousy or insecurity.

. . . subjects the other to constant belittling or put-downs.

. . . has an explosive temper.

. . . isolates the other from family and friends.

. . . makes false accusations about the other.

. . . exhibits constant mood swings.

. . . physically inflicts pain or hurt toward the other in any way.

. . . is possessive.

. . . tells the other what to do.

. . . repeatedly pressures the other to have sex.

The presence of signs like these can help us determine if our partners show abusive behaviors, or if our friends or family members are with an abusive partner.

What are the effects of teen dating violence?

The effects of teen dating violence are more than physical injury. According to the CDC, teen dating violence can lead to the following:

Symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco, drug, and alcohol use.

Antisocial behaviors.

Thoughts of suicide.

What are my options for seeking help when dealing with teen dating violence?

Although some have a certain individual they can trust—whether a parent, sibling, or friend—not all individuals have these resources or feel comfortable discussing some of the traumatic events they face with an abusive partner.

One resource available to all is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The hotline is open all hours of the day, and it offers several options for those seeking help. You can call 1-866-331-9474 to speak with an advocate.

Another resource is loveisrespect, a subsidiary of the National Domestic Violence Hotline that specifically addresses teens. You can chat at loveisrespect.org, or text “loveis” to 22522.

Some find it best to speak over the phone with someone, and others are more comfortable writing to describe the events they have experienced or feelings they have. In whatever manner you are most comfortable, through these sources, you can contact an advocate all day, every single day.

In addition to helping victims/survivors, the above links can take you to educational materials, online interactive trainings, and other resources to provide the education that we all need about teen dating violence.

What resources are available local to St. Louis?

If you are looking for help in the St. Louis area, the YWCA Metro St. Louis is a great resource. In the event of a sexual assault, you can call the YWCA Rape Crisis Line at 314-531-7273 or the YWCA Women’s Resource Center at 314-726-6665. In the case of intimate partner violence, reach out to the YWCA Metro St. Louis’s Woman’s Place, which is a non-residential, drop-in center where you can speak with an advocate. Woman’s Place is located at 140 North Brentwood in Clayton, MO 63105. Or you can call 636-373-7911 or 314-645-4848. These sources provide immediate assistance, advocates, and answers to questions you may have. They also provide education: they host frequent constantly have workshops and programs to empower and educate us all about intimate partner violence.

I’ve never experienced teen dating violence, but how can I help those who have?

Being educated on the subject of teen dating violence is important if we want to be there for those who have dealt with this violence. The YWCA has programs for those who have faced violence, and also for those who want to help break the cycle. For a list of upcoming workshops and programs, see this printable flier. It’s time to address the issue of teen dating violence, and it starts with you. 

BreAnna Walker is a nursing student at Saint Louis University.


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