Dating violence is something no parent or family would want for their teen. Deciding when a teen should be allowed to date is tough enough.  Thoughts going through a parent’s mind may include worries about sex or heart break, but how many parents think about abusive relationships?

Unfortunately, about 10% of high school students nationwide report being slapped, hit, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.  This number does not capture the number of teens who may be harrassed, stalked via phone calls/text messages, or verbally abused. Dating violence or abuse can often be secretive.  The abusive partner often seeks to control the relationship and may state what the other teen can wear, who they can hang out with, and what activities they can participate in.

Here are some warning signs to look for:

  • Be aware of certain behaviors.  If your teen gets upset when their phone is off or if your teen’s partner is constantly texted, calling, or instant messaging them, this is an alert of possible possessive behavior. 
  • Look for social withdrawal from friends.
  • Intermittently look at your teen’s social media page (such as a facebook or twitter account) to see what is posted. Posts that are humiliating or degrading are signs that something is not right.
  • If you see bruises or scratches in unsual places, this is concerning. Ask where the bruise came from and if the story sounds untrue, dig a little deeper.

 Here are ways parents can help stop or prevent dating violence:

  • Be a role model for appropriate behavior in intimate relationships.  Talk with them early about what a supportive relationship looks and feels like.
  • Know your teen’s boyfriend/girlfriend.  Invite them over for dinner or watch a movie together. 
  • Talk with your teen.  Ask them how they feel about their partner.  Ask what activities they’re doing and who they are hanging out with. 
  • Don’t blame or yell at them if you discover abuse is occuring. It is extremely important to keep the lines of communication open.

Finally, there are many websites designed for teens and parents with more information on this topic.  Look at Love is Not Abuse for facts on abusive relationships and ways to prevent dating violence and Teens Experiencing Abusive Relationships for hotlines and resources.