Relationship Abuse: Teen Dating & Domestic Violence

Approximately 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Liz Claiborne’s 2009 Parent/Teen Dating Violence Poll


Relationship abuse includes domestic violence, or domestic abuse, as well as teen dating violence; essentially, it is violence or abuse within an intimate relationship. Forms of violence and abuse include:

  • physical violence (punching, slapping, kicking, hitting, threatening, to name a few)
  • verbal abuse (yelling, calling names, putting you down)
  • emotional abuse (making you feel bad about yourself, controlling your actions and the people you see, blaming)
  • sexual abuse (forcing you to have sex without your consent, sexual harassment)

Teen dating violence also includes stalking, harassing phone calls and text messages, and cyberbullying. Abuse is not just male-against-female; any gender can commit it, and any gender can be a victim to it. Regardless, girls are victims of certain forms of abuse more often than boys are. In fact, girls between 16 and 24 are victims of partner violence three times greater than the national average.

Relationship abuse occurs in alarming numbers: 1 in 5 tweens say their friends are victims of dating violence and nearly half of tweens who are in relationships know friends who are verbally abused. Approximately 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 10 percent of all high school students have been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.

Nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a boyfriend or current or former spouse at some point in her life, and one in six women reported experiencing a sexual assault. It can impact the friends and loved ones of the person being abused, as they can experience second-hand violence. Abuse also spans across every race, culture, sex, and socioeconomic status.

If you are or think you are experiencing relationship abuse, please get help:

  • Talk to a friend or another person you trust.
  • Contact the National Teen Dating Violence Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474.
  • Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE or 800-799-7233.
  • Talk to your doctor, a local counseling center or shelter, or a local court
  • Find more resources to learn more and get help, including instant online chat with a trained advocate.
  • In an emergency, call 911.


Relationship abuse is a growing public health problem that has serious and sometimes deadly consequences for victims as well as to society. “Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications for victims, putting such victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide, and adult revictimization.”

  • Women who have experienced violence and abuse are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, and 60 percent more likely to have asthma than non-abused women.
  • Victims are more likely to experience a wide range of reproductive health problems including unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted disease/HIV transmission, miscarriages, and more.
  • Abuse increases the likelihood of teen pregnancy; adolescent girls in abusive relationships are 3.5 times more likely to become pregnant than their non-abused peers.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also linked childhood exposure to violence with long-term, chronic health conditions including obesity and arthritis.

Abuse also affects school life: targets of digital abuse are nearly 3 times more likely to have considered dropping out of school, and the U.S. Department of Education found that students who experience teen dating violence have lower grades than their peers.

Call to Action

Learn More

Find out more by visiting these sites:

Read Soroptimist International’s white paper on teen dating violence

Read “Domestic violence against women: Recognize patterns, seek help” from the Mayo Clinic

Watch and share these videos:

(Note: some of the images in the following videos may be disturbing. They depict violence and injuries.)

Inform Others

  • Talk with your friends about relationship abuse and teen dating violence. Make sure you and they know the signs, as well as what you can do to get help. With your friends, make a list of what you want or what’s important to you in a relationship, and then on the other side of the paper, write down the warning signs in a relationship. Think about boundaries, and what would be acceptable and unacceptable to you in a relationship.
  • Get involved with community organizations (or create your own) that raise awareness about relationship violence, or at centers and shelters that help women and children escape from abuse. One example is YNet at Greenwich High School in Connecticut. Led by students, it runs campaigns and events to raise awareness about teen dating violence, and aims to promote healthy dating relationships.
  • Plan activities to “break the silence” during National Domestic Violence Prevention Month in October and National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in February.

Create Change

  • Petition your State Legislature to pass a law that would require schools to teach about signs of teen dating violence. Find out if your state already has a relationship abuse prevention education program in place.
  • Does your state allow minors to get a restraining or protective court order that makes it illegal for the abuser to harm you, come near you or contact you? Check out your state at your state report card and see whether your state requires parent or guardian consent which may stop some minors from seeking a court order. If so, create change by trying to amend your state law!
  • Read up on the Violence Against Women Law of 2013 that recently passed. This bill reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 which would increase the number of victims who get assistance, fund violence help centers, and aid women prosecute those who committed violence against them. Write to your Senators and Representative to thank them for co-sponsoring or voting in favor of S 47.
  • Write a letter to your U.S. Representative asking them to continue the $412.5 million apportioned to the Office on Violence Against Women in the Fiscal Year budget.
  • Post a Twitter or Facebook status about dating violence to educate others and make difference. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, but you can show your support any time of the year.
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