By Brenda Yoder, LMHC

Intimate partner violence doesn’t begin when a ring is on a finger or when the guy moves in. It also happens in teen dating relationships.

Consider these facts:

-In 2001, 1 out of 5 female high school students reported being physically and/or sexually abused by a partner (Jay G. Silverman et al., “Dating Violence Against….,”Journal of American Medical Association, Nov. 5, 2001)

-Among female victims of intimate partner violence, a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend victimized 94% of those between ages of 16-19 (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 7, 2001).

-Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group, at a rate triple to the national average (U.S. Department of Justice, “Special Report, Intimate Partner Violence & Age of Victim” Oct, 2001).

-88% of parents surveyed either believe teen dating violence isn’t an issue or admit not knowing it’s an issue (“Women’s Health” June/July, 2004, Family Violence Prevention Fund and Advocates for Youth).

As a service provider and educator for teen dating violence, I’ve spoken to teens in schools about teen dating violence. Teens admit it happens. Most of them are afraid to talk about it or don’t know where to begin to get help if they want to.

As a parent, there are red flags to be aware of if you see behavior in your teen’s dating relationships.

Your teen may be a victim of teen dating violence if they:

  • Often apologize for their partner’s behavior.
  • Sneak around and lie about behavior with their dating partner.
  • Are isolated from friends and family when being with their dating partner.
  • Frequently have to “check in” with their dating partner.
  • Have a change in mood or character when around their dating partner.
  • Experience extreme jealousy or possessiveness from their dating partner.
  • Are afraid to make their partner angry.
  • Get overly upset after a phone call, text message, or personal contact with their dating partner.
  • Have unexplained marks on their body.
  • Often request to be exclusively alone with their dating partner vs. both of them hanging out with family members when you are all together.
  • Have a decline in school performance or lack of interest in social activities.
  • Are afraid to make their partner upset.
  • Are quick to do anything their partner asks of them.

If your teen has signs of an unhealthy relationship:

  • Don’t minimize or ignore the unhealthy behavior.
  • Listen to things your teen may NOT be saying. They often don’t come out and ask for help.
  • Monitor your child’s online and digital behavior. Require knowledge of passwords, check cell phone, tablet and network history. Disable GPS tracking on their smartphone.
  • If something doesn’t “feel” right to you, it probably isn’t.
  • Listen to your teen. Don’t judge them if this behavior is happening, but support them.

If your teen is in an abusive relationship:

  • Contact your local domestic violence agency for assistance with restraining orders or other information.
  • Empower your teen to break up. Set boundaries for them, model words to say, and give them resources they can use for ending the relationship.
  • Establish a safety plan with them.
  • Keep record of harassing messages, online communication and contact local authorities.
  • Talk to school officials about keeping your child safe at school.
  • Seek professional help in your community.

If your young adult daughter is in an abusive relationship:

This is a matter of health and safety. While you can’t force your daughter out of a relationship, the severity of violence in a relationship is a matter of physical health and safety. While all situations are different, allowing a young adult to just “figure it out on their own” when there are clear warning signs that physical or sexual harm is taking place is not appropriate.

As Christian parents, especially fathers, we are still their protectors from real harm and danger. Giving your daughter the tools be aware of harmful relationships, how to handle herself in those situations and coaching her on red flags is appropriate. If, however, there is a real threat on her physical safety, trust your instincts on how to protect your child from life threatening harm or danger.

Gain more information. Resources for teen dating violence include:

National Dating Hotline – 1-866-331-9474
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE



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