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Teen Dating Violence: Awareness and Prevention 

Teen Dating Violence,

We treat many teenagers for mental health concerns at Palms Behavioral Health in Harlingen, Texas. It is no coincidence that some of them are survivors of teen dating violence, as this is an adverse childhood experience that is very common and can take a toll on mental health. Millions of young people have been victims of teen dating violence.

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen Dating Violence (TDV) is a form of intimate partner violence involving a minor (whose partner might be another minor or an adult), that can take place in person, online, or through other technology. Some examples include:

  • Physical Violence
    • Hitting
    • Kicking 
    • Using force to hurt the other partner
  • Sexual Violence
    • Forcing or pressuring a partner to engage in sexual behavior or touching they do not wish to participate in or are not capable of consenting to 
    • Posting or sharing sexual pictures of a partner without their consent
    • Sharing pictures of themselves with a person who does not consent to receive them
  • Psychological Aggression
    • Manipulative mind games
    • Name-calling
    • Any verbal and non-verbal communication to harm a partner mentally or emotionally
    • Exerting control over the partner via verbal or non-verbal communication
  • Stalking – a repeated pattern of unwanted attention and contact by a current or former partner that makes them feel fearful or unsafe or causes them to worry about the safety of someone close to them

How Common is TDV?

The statistics for TDV are pretty scary:

  • 1 in 12 adolescents have experienced physical dating violence.
  • 1 in 12 adolescents have experienced sexual dating violence.
  • Up to 65 percent of adolescents have experienced psychological abuse from a partner.
  • There is a high rate of overlap between victimization and perpetration, with 84 percent of victims also reporting that they have perpetrated abuse.
  • LGBT teens are more likely than heterosexual teens to experience TDV.
  • Around half of females and 35 percent of males have reported perpetrating TDV.
  • Females are more likely to report perpetrating psychological and physical violence, while males are more likely to report perpetrating sexual violence.

What Causes TDV?

Teen dating violence often occurs when young people have not yet developed the skills to manage intense emotions. These might include:

  • Conflict
  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Rejection
  • Shame
  • Distinguishing normal, healthy amounts of romantic interest from stalking and excessive jealousy

Increased access to social media has enhanced the fear of shame and judgment young people feel when managing these issues and can also make it more difficult for a victim to fully escape their abuser.

Young people who have previously experienced violence are also more likely to become perpetrators of TDV, regardless of whether their past experience with violence was within their family or their community.

Adolescents who live in poverty are more likely to become abusers and also to be abused than teens from more affluent families.

What are the Mental Health Effects of TDV?

Young people who have been victims of TDV experience an increased likelihood of both short-term and long-term negative outcomes:

What Should You Do if You Are a Victim of TDV?

It can be really scary to experience TDV. Often, abusers will convince their victims that it is their own fault they are being abused and that no one will help them, but help is available. 

  • Tell someone. Your abuser may do things to make you feel too ashamed or fearful to ask for help, but that does not mean that you do not deserve and will not receive support if you tell a friend, family member, teacher or someone else you trust. You can also reach out to help through a crisis line.
  • Document the abuse. If you write down what is taking place, take pictures of your injuries and seek medical care, that will make it easier to get the protection you deserve, like a no-contact order. Print out emails, texts, and any other communication that you have in writing.
  • Leave the relationship. Unhealthy relationships can turn violent very quickly. If you aren’t sure how to safely leave the relationship, reach out to someone you trust or a crisis line.

What Can Adults Do About TDV?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has developed some tools to prevent TDV:

There is also a free webinar available from the National Institute of Justice that adults can watch for tips on reducing TDV.

Concerned adults can also take the following actions to help:

  • Model and teach safe and healthy relationship skills
  • Engage other adults and adolescents as allies against TDV
  • Support community programs that teach youth social-emotional learning and healthy relationship skills
  • Ensure schools and workplaces provide a safe, supportive environment
  • Support services for survivors of intimate partner violence
  • Take patient-centered approaches when interacting with survivors

If you are concerned that a young person in your life might be experiencing TDV, we would encourage you to talk to them about your observations. If they are experiencing or have previously experienced TDV and need professional support for resulting mental health concerns, Palms Behavioral Health is here to help.

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