This post discusses intimate partner violence.
A: Supporting healthy relationships and creating a safe environment are key to preventing and stopping teen dating violence.
TL; DR: Partner violence can start in early teen years. The emotional and behavioral effects are severe and can carry over into adulthood for both victims and perpetrators. However, abuse can often be prevented by creating safe and supportive environments, positive engagement with peers and adults, and teaching and modeling healthy relationships.
*If you or anyone you know needs help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Anonymous, confidential help is available 24/7.*
The previous two posts in this series looked at partner violence primarily in adults. Unfortunately, abuse among teenagers and youth is more common than we think. Romantic relationships between teenagers can be complicated. Intimate relationships also demand a level of maturity that may not be present as yet, and that can lead to unhealthy or abusive relationships. Teen dating violence (TDV) or adolescent relationship abuse (ARA)is a major risk factor for self-harm and suicide among teens.
TDV shares many features and patterns with partner violence in adults but differs from it in a few ways. Violence is often mutual, with the majority of the victims also committing abuse. The most common form of abuse is psychological, and physical and sexual abuse are less frequent. Also, both boys and girls can be victims of TDV, but girls are more likely to report it when they cause the abuse.
Parents, guardians and other trusted adults in a teen’s life can help teens navigate dating and romantic relationships safely. Creating the opportunity and space for conversations is important. We highlight a few strategies here that are critical to preventing and stopping abuse and abusive behavior in teens.
→ Encourage and model healthy relationships among friends and peers: Teens of all genders face pressure to be a certain way. Knowing what is safe in any relationship can protect them from the pressure to fit in or engage in risky behavior.
→ Be aware of the teen’s technology use: Technology has contributed to the increase of dating violence (for example, sexting), but also keeps it hidden. However, being aware of how they use it can be tricky since technology is fully embedded in all aspects of life, including education. Also, social media is the preferred method of communication among teens, and they are generally more savvy with social media than adults! The balance between protecting your child and allowing for trust and normal development can be a challenge.
→ Talk about consent: It is important that teens know that any sexual contact can take place only if both partners agree, and consent should be asked every time and can be withdrawn at any time. This applies to both in-person and online interactions. Encourage them to trust their instincts, especially if they feel uncomfortable or afraid. And trust your instincts!
Create a non-judgmental, safe, and supportive space for these conversations and let the teen know that there is no shame in asking for help. It can be difficult or uncomfortable to talk about interpersonal violence. Some adults face additional challenges based on their own history. But you are not alone – there are tools available for parents, guardians, and teens, and counselors, social workers and medical professionals can also be of help.
If you or anyone you know needs help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Anonymous, confidential help is available 24/7.
In the UK, call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Stay safe. Stay well.
Those Nerdy Girls
Domestic Violence Hotlines