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What Do Parents Need to Know About Teen Dating Violence?


  • Verbal:  yelling, name-calling, put-downs
  • Emotional:  spreading rumors, lying, possessiveness
  • Psychological:  manipulation, mind games, guilt tripping
  • Physical:  shoving, hitting, punching
  • Sexual:  unwanted touching
  • Dating violence can even lead to rape and murder


“Oh, it’s not that serious.”

(More than 1 in 10 teens experience physical violence in a dating relationship)

“It only happens to kids from bad homes.”

(Dating violence can happen in all types of homes, and in families of all cultures, income levels and educational backgrounds. Teen dating violence is NOT limited to families with a history of violence)

“It can’t happen to my child.”

(Boys, as well as girls, can be victims of dating violence. It can occur in any type of relationship - heterosexual, gay, or lesbian.)


  • They are afraid their parents will make them break up
  • They are embarrassed and ashamed
  • They are afraid of getting hurt by their partner
  • They are convinced that it is their fault or that their parents will blame them or be disappointed
  • They are confused—they may think this is what dating is all about
  • They are afraid of losing privileges like being able to stay out late


  • They have little or no experience with healthy dating relationships
  • They believe being involved with someone is the most important thing in their life
  • They confuse jealousy with love
  • They do not realize they are being abused
  • They do not think friends and others would believe this is happening
  • They have lost touch with friends
  • They know that the abuser acts nice—sometimes


Some of the following changes are just part of being a teenager. But, when these changes happen suddenly, or without explanation, there may be cause for concern:

  • Sudden changes in clothes or make-up
  • Bruises, scratches, burns, or other injuries
  • Failing grades or dropping out of school activities
  • Avoiding friends
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Sudden changes in mood or personality, becoming secretive
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits, avoiding eye contact, having “crying jags”
  • Constantly thinking about dating partner
  • Wearing a beeper at partner’s request and responding immediately when paged
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Pregnancy – some teenagers believe that having a baby will help make things better; some girls are forced to have sex


TIP:  It is never too early to teach self-respect. No one has the right to tell your teenager who to see, what to do, or what to wear. No one has the right to hit or control anyone else.

TIP:  Give your teenager a chance to talk. Listen quietly to the whole story.

TIP:  If you suspect that your teenager is already involved with an abusive partner, tell your teenager that you are there to help, not to judge.  If your teenager does not want to talk with you, help your teenager find another trusted person to talk with.

TIP:  Focus on your child; do not put down the abusive partner. Point out how unhappy your teenager seems to be while with this person.

TIP:  If your teenager tries to break up with an abusive partner, advise that the break be definite and final.  Support your teenager’s decision and be ready to help. Get advice from teen dating violence prevention hotlines or teen counselors how to support your child through a relationship break up.

TIP:  Take whatever safety measures are necessary. Have friends available so your teenager does not have to walk alone. Consider changing class schedules or getting help from the guidance counselor, school principal, or the police if necessary.


  • “I care about what happens to you. I love you and I want to help.”
  • “If you feel afraid, it may be abuse. Sometimes people behave in ways that are scary and make you feel threatened – even without using physical violence. Pay attention to your gut feelings.”
  • “The abuse is not your fault. You are not to blame; no matter how guilty the person doing this to you is trying to make you feel. Your partner should not be doing this to you.”
  • “It is the abuser who has a problem, not you. It is not your responsibility to help this person change.”
  • “It is important to talk about this. If you don’t want to talk with me, find someone you trust and talk with that person.  You can also talk to someone at a hotline who can help you sort things out.”

(Adapted from pamphlets, “Teen Dating Violence,” Carole Sousa with Mass. Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics and Mass. Medical Society, and “Teen Dating Violence Resource Guide,” Newton-Wellesley Hospital in support of Newton Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Intervention Programs)

Relationships and Safety:  Web Resources for Teens and Young Adults

Break the Cycle  is a national nonprofit organization addressing teen dating violence. Their mission is to engage, educate and empower youth to build lives and communities free from domestic violence.  Their success is demonstrated by more than a decade of leadership in working with teens to prevent and end domestic and dating violence.   Love Is Not Abuse  is a growing national grassroots coalition of adults who want to learn about and prevent dating abuse. Members can be active advocates, parents, teachers, government officials, health care workers, or basically any caring adult working with youth.  LINA is youth informed, builds a national adult ally network, and creates content to be used in communities across the country.

Futures Without Violence 
For more than 30 years, FUTURES has been providing groundbreaking programs, policies, and campaigns that empower individuals and organizations working to end violence against women and children around the world. Our vision is a future without violence that provides education, safety, justice, and hope.

Love is Respect  (National Teen Dating Violence Helpline) was launched in February 2007 with help from founding sponsor, Liz Clairborne Inc. It is a national 24-hour resource that can be accessed by phone or the internet, specifically designed for teens and young adults. The Helpline and offer real-time one-on-one support from trained Peer Advocates. Peer Advocates are trained to offer support, information and advocacy to those involved in dating abuse relationships as well as concerned parents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement, and service providers. Start Strong Boston  is a program of the Division of Violence Prevention aimed at working with young people as the solution to ending teen dating violence. Start Strong is an innovative grass-roots effort focused on 11- to- 18-year-olds to prevent teen dating violence and abuse by actively promoting healthy relationships.

That's Not Cool is an award-winning national public education initiative that partners with young people to help raise awareness and bring educational and organizing tools to communities to address dating violence, unhealthy relationships, and digital abuse.


IN MASSACHUSETTS: Safelink Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline, 877-785-2020 Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, 800-841-8371 OUTSIDE MASSACHUSETTS: National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-7233 IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER: Call the Police at 911


For more information or to discuss domestic abuse concerns you may call the Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.




This content was last modified on: 01/04/2018

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