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Stop Dating Abuse Before It Starts

Seeing your teen off on a date can make you nervous. But parents also must think about a very frightening topic—teen dating violence.

Teen dating violence is worrisome. But it's not inevitable. You and your teen can prevent possibly unsafe situations and reduce the risk for problems.

Abuse is defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline as a pattern of behavior that maintains power and control that one person uses over another. It includes behavior that physically harms, causes fear, or prevents a partner from doing what they want to do. It also forces a person to behave in ways they don't want. Battering also includes the use of:

  • Physical and sexual violence

  • Threats

  • Intimidation

  • Emotional abuse

  • Economic deprivation

Subtle beginning

The pattern often begins with criticisms and demands from one partner. A person may tell their partner what clothes to wear. Or the person may tell their partner which friends they can see. The demands can get worse and become threats and rage. Teens may not know how to respond to the threatening behavior and mind games. Teens may think that they are to blame and that they deserve the abuse.

Teens rarely seek help. So parents should watch for warning signs.

Signs of physical abuse include:

  • Unexplained bruises

  • Suddenly giving up friends or activities

  • Change in looks or clothing

  • Not doing schoolwork

  • Sudden anger or being secretive

  • Not letting you meet a date

Signs of emotional abuse include:

  • Depressed or withdrawn behavior

  • Use of alcohol or drugs

  • Angry or destructive behavior

Teaching the signs

Teens may not always recognize abuse. This is especially true for teens with low self-esteem. Teach both teen girls and boys. Be aware that researchers say some boys seem to feel it's OK to control girlfriends through violence.

It may be hard for your child to talk about problems in their dating life. Don't become angry or interfere if your child refuses to talk. Let them know that you care and that you want them to be safe. If you think that your child is the abuser in a relationship, confront them about it. Get them professional help.

What if you think your teen may be in an abusive relationship? Offer this advice:

  • Always tell someone about the evening's plans.

  • Consider double dating when possible.

  • Have a plan for what to do if a date becomes abusive.

  • Don't drink or take drugs.

  • Know and carry emergency contact information.

  • Trust your instincts.

Not getting into an abusive relationship is often a lot easier than getting out of one.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dan Brennan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
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