Teen Dating Violence: What are the facts?

Have you ever experienced the excitement of diving into a new romance? Or that incredible feeling when you meet someone who sets your heart racing? We've all been there, right? But there's something crucial you should never forget when getting involved while you’re in middle school or high school: Teen Dating Violence. 


What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence, which can happen in relationships among people aged 12 to 18, can be defined by a few different things. The National Institute of Justice says it includes physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, as well as harassment or stalking. Physical dating violence is when someone intentionally hurts their date by hitting, kicking, or using other physical force. Sexual dating violence involves pressuring a date into non-consensual sexual acts. Whereas psychological aggression includes isolating someone, threatening your well-being, or manipulating in order to control. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines stalking as when a person repeatedly gives unwanted attention and contact, making you feel scared for your safety or the safety of someone close to you. Cyberdating abuse is a newer form of dating violence where technology is used to control or harass someone in a relationship. For example, it could involve pressuring your date to send explicit photos, spreading rumors through texts or messages, making them anxious if they don't respond to a text, or using information from their social media to bother them

Hear from Angel about how Safe Passage's Youth Leadership Program changed the way he viewed his relationships: Who Has the Power?: Teen Wisdom for Transformative Change

Teen dating violence is more common than we’d like to believe. Studies show that 7-19% of teens experience sexual or physical violence in their relationships. According to the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence in 2016, about half of teens in relationships face stalking or harassment. The same study also suggests that as many as 65% of teens in relationships encounter psychological violence. LGBTQIA teens face a higher risk of physical dating violence. 13.1% of non-heterosexual students and 16.9% of questioning students said they have faced physical dating violence, compared to 7.2% of straight students. These variations are important and have been proven to be significant through statistical analysis. With the rise of technology and the prevalence of social media among adolescents, the rate of cyber-dating abuse is also high. One in four young people in a relationship reported they had experienced cyber dating abuse and when teens in relationships experience cyber dating abuse, it often goes hand in hand with other types of abuse. A study by Zweig and colleagues in 2013 found that out of those who faced cyber dating abuse, 84% also dealt with psychological abuse, 53% experienced physical violence, and 32.4% faced sexual coercion. These rates were significantly higher compared to teens who did not experience cyber dating abuse. 


Figure 1. Teen Dating Violence Statistics from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 1) Sexual minority adolescents face a higher risk of physical dating violence; 2) 48% dating teens experienced stalking or harassment; 3) 65 % of teens in relationships encounter psychological violence; 4) One youth in four in a relationship reported they had experienced cyber dating abuse.


Experiencing abuse when you're young can affect you for a long time.

Experiencing dating violence as a teen can have quite an impact on your life, especially as far as your mental health goes. The consequences are not just short-term – the effects can last for a long time, depending on when it happened. Research has shown that the experience of teen dating violence was significantly associated with an overall high-risk profile. Female survivors of teen dating violence are more likely to develop depressive symptoms. Among teenage boys, teen dating violence was marginally associated with binge-eating and suicidal ideation. The consequences of relationship abuse can also lead to low self-esteem, psychiatric disorders, drug abuse, and risky sexual behavior


As adolescents and young adults, it's normal to have questions about whether we or others are experiencing dating violence. Ask yourself some questions from That’s Not Cool.com

Figure 2. Helpful Questions from  That’s Not Cool.com for Teen Dating Violence Identification.

If you want to know more about what to look for in a healthy relationship LoveIsRespect has a ton of incredible information on how to set boundaries, learning about power & control, understanding consent, and much more.

If you're feeling worried about safety in your relationship talk to a trusted adult, confide in a friend, and know you're not alone in this.


What can you do to help if you believe a friend is being abused?

Supporting our friends who may be experiencing Teen Dating Violence is crucial. Here are some ways we can be there for them:

  • Listen without judgment: Create a safe space where your friend feels comfortable opening up about their experiences. Be patient, empathetic, and non-judgmental. Let them know you're there to support them no matter what.
  • Believe and validate them: It's essential to believe your friend's story and validate their feelings. Often, victims of Teen Dating Violence may doubt themselves or feel ashamed. Reassure them that their feelings are valid and that they deserve a healthy and respectful relationship.
  • Encourage open communication: Help your friend understand the importance of open communication in relationships. Encourage them to express their concerns and feelings to their partner. Let them know that healthy relationships are built on trust, respect, and effective communication.
  • Offer resources and information: Educate yourself about Teen Dating Violence and available resources in your community. Share this information with your friend, providing them with options for seeking help, such as local helplines, counseling services, or support groups. Let them know they are not alone and that there are people who can assist them.
  • Respect their decisions: It's important to respect your friend's autonomy and choices. Recognize that leaving an abusive relationship can be a complex process, and they may need time to make decisions that are right for them. Offer support and guidance without telling them what they have to do or pushing them into actions they're not ready for.
  • Encourage self-care: Help your friend prioritize self-care and well-being. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy, spend time with supportive friends and family, and seek professional help if needed. Remind them that their mental and physical health matter.
  • Stay connected and check in regularly: Maintain regular communication with your friend and check in on their well-being. Let them know you're always available to talk or lend a helping hand. Consistent support can make a significant difference in their journey.

Remember, it's essential to involve trusted adults or professionals if your friend's safety is at immediate risk.


We're here for you.

If you are or know someone who is looking for support around teen dating violence or relationship abuse, please call our helpline (M-F, 9am-5pm) at (413) 586-5066, toll-free at (888) 345-5282. We have counselors on staff who work specifically with children, youth, and families who are survivors of domestic violence. If you’d like to speak to someone outside of our office hours you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233


Literature Review: Teen Dating Violence. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/model-programs-guide/literature-reviews/Teen-Dating-Violence (accessed 2024-02-13).

Five Things About Teen Dating Violence. National Institute of Justice. https://nij.ojp.gov/library/publications/five-things-about-teen-dating-violence (accessed 2024-02-15).

Fast Facts: Preventing Teen Dating Violence. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teendatingviolence/fastfact.html (accessed 2024-02-15).

Ackard, D. M.; Eisenberg, M. E.; Neumark-Sztainer, D. Long-Term Impact of Adolescent Dating Violence on the Behavioral and Psychological Health of Male and Female Youth. The Journal of Pediatrics 2007, 151 (5), 476–481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.04.034.

Dick, R. N.; McCauley, H. L.; Jones, K. A.; Tancredi, D. J.; Goldstein, S.; Blackburn, S.; Monasterio, E.; James, L.; Silverman, J. G.; Miller, E. Cyber Dating Abuse among Teens Using School-Based Health Centers. Pediatrics 2014, 134 (6), e1560-1567. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2014-0537.

Zweig, J.; Dank, M. Technology, Teen Dating Violence and Abuse, and Bullying in Three States, 2011-2012: Version 1, 2015. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34741.V1.

Basile, K. C. Interpersonal Violence Victimization Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019. MMWR Suppl 2020, 69. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.su6901a4.

Taylor, B. G.; Mumford, E. A. A National Descriptive Portrait of Adolescent Relationship Abuse: Results From the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence. J Interpers Violence 2016, 31 (6), 963–988. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260514564070.

Taquette, S. R.; Monteiro, D. L. M. Causes and Consequences of Adolescent Dating Violence: A Systematic Review. J Inj Violence Res 2019, 11 (2), 137–147. https://doi.org/10.5249/jivr.v11i2.1061.

Stop Verbal Abuse Online, Get Help. That’s Not Cool. https://thatsnotcool.com/stop-verbal-abuse-online-get-help/ (accessed 2024-02-15).

Goncy, E. A.; Farrell, A. D.; Sullivan, T. N. Teen Dating Violence Victimization in an Urban Sample of Early Adolescents. National Institute of Justice. https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/teen-dating-violence-victimization-urban-sample-early-adolescents (accessed 2024-02-15).

Foshee, V. A.; Reyes, H. L. M.; Gottfredson, N. C.; Chang, L.-Y.; Ennett, S. T. A Longitudinal Examination of Psychological, Behavioral, Academic, and Relationship Consequences of Dating Abuse Victimization among a Primarily Rural Sample of Adolescents. J Adolesc Health 2013, 53 (6), 723–729. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.06.016.