A sad teenager.
Dating violence can affect a person physically, emotionally and sexually.

Dating violence refers to teen dating violence. It may impact the person physically or it could take place online via sharing sexual photos. While a teen may consider name calling or bullying as a normal part of a relationship, it is not. These types of behaviors can escalate, leading to more harmful scenarios. Surprisingly, dating violence impacts one in 11 female high school students and one in 15 male high school students.

The Types of Dating Violence

Dating violence occurs between two people in a relationship and it can take on various forms, including the following types.

Physical Violence

Physical violence involves physically hurting someone, such as kicking, hitting, pushing, or using any other kind of physical force.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence does not involve consent. It is where a person cannot or has not consented to a sexual act or sexual touching, as well as forcing someone to take part in a sexual act.

Emotional Violence

Emotional violence can include threats or attacks on a person’s self-worth, such as name calling, bullying, shaming, embarrassing the person, or isolating them from family and friends.

Overall, any type of dating violence can impact a teenager’s development and identity. It can deflate their self-worth and lead to drinking, drugs, poor academic performance, suicide, negative self-image, and problems in future relationships. All of this can be prevented.

Approaching Your Teen About Dating Violence

Talking to your teen about uncomfortable topics is one of the hardest parts about being a parent. With significant psychological, emotional, and physical changes happening during this time, it can be hard to predict how a conversation may go. However, you can set the stage for your teen to develop healthy relationships as they grow. During this time of their life, they are forming new and deeper relationships than ever before. Thus, it is up to you as the parent to ensure they know what a healthy relationship looks like.

How can you do this? Try the following tips:

  • Talk openly with your teen about what a healthy relationship consists of. Allow them to express their expectations and encourage them to think about what a healthy relationship is and why.
  • Practice understanding with your teen. Your teen is likely going through various mood swings. Do your research on what kind of behavior to expect during the teenage years and know that your decisions as a parent are not always going to be met with compliance.
  • Educate your teen on disrespectful behavior, inappropriate language, controlling actions, and types of violence. The more they know, the more they will be able to know whether or not certain entities in a relationship are normal or not.
  • Encourage and emphasize the positive. Always try to focus on the upside rather than the negative consequences or risks of certain behavior.
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What Are the Red Flags?

As a parent, if your teen has started dating, it is important to watch how their relationship functions and progresses. There are certain red flags to look for and these will signal an unhealthy relationship. Watch for these warning signs:

  • Over the top insecurity or jealousy
  • Erratic or increasing moodiness
  • Controlling tendencies
  • Bullying or signs of it
  • Change in behavior, such as an increase sadness
  • Isolation or distancing themselves from others
  • Lying

If you think your teen may be a victim of dating violence, remind your teen that violence is never acceptable in any shape or form, nor is it their fault. Encourage them to talk openly with you or help them find resources where they can talk about it with a professional.

Treatment for Dating Violence

If your teen opens up to you about their unhealthy relationship, talk with them from a place of understanding. Ensure they know violence against them is not their fault and there is something that can be done about it. Begin by writing down incidences of violence that have occurred. Discuss how they can leave the relationship and why it is necessary.

Also, it may be important and helpful to sign them up for therapy or support groups that can help them work through and understand what has transpired. Speaking with a professional and joining support groups can help them know they are not alone and that being a victim of dating violence does not mean it was their fault or that they are weak or powerless.

Ideally, you want to discuss with your teen and outline what a healthy relationship is before it gets to this point. Sometimes, this is not possible. At this point, all you can do is offer support and resources for your teen to overcome this problem and move forward into a brighter, happier, and better future. It’s entirely possible to find healthy relationships, even after a bad one has occurred. It just may take some time, resources, learning, and therapy to get there. Support your teen and be there for them. They will need you during this time.