Preventing teen dating violence

  • Published
  • By Lawanna Barron
  • Family advocacy
Dating violence has become an issue with many of today's teens. We must educate our youth about healthy relationships and work together to prevent this devastating cycle of abuse.

Abuse can come in many forms: verbal, emotional, and even sexual. Teens involved in abusive relationships are more likely to have other problems such as fighting, binge drinking, risky sexual activity, and even suicide attempts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every 11 teens report being hit or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past twelve months.

Abuse can also involve the internet or cell phones. In a 2010 Pew Research Center study of 800 teens age 12 to 17, 26 percent reported being bullied or harassed through text messages and phone calls.

Fifteen percent stated they have received a sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude image of someone they know by text.

Parents find teen years challenging as they try to prepare teens for difficult situations, try to know when there is a problem, and try to provide guidance when teens need it.

Teens are less likely to be at risk when in a healthy relationship: when communication is open, especially when there are problems, they have space to spend time with other friends and family, friends are supportive and respectful.

Recognize the warning signs that a teen may be at risk.

Teens may be in an abusive relationship when; their friends control where they go, what they wear, what they do. Their friend also try to stop them from talking with family or other friends, they are threatened or scared, they are pushed, slapped, or kicked, they are forced to do things sexually they don't want to do.

Teens that are stressed or abused may change their routine. They may give up activities or hobbies they previously enjoyed. They may withdraw from friends and family or spend too much time with the person they are dating.

Have a conversation with your teen about what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Be sure to include information about dating abuse. Listen carefully and be aware that only 32 percent of teens actually confide in their parents about their abusive relationship.

Serve as a good role model to your teen by having healthy relationships. Teens learn much more from what we do than from what we say. Show teens through your own relationships how to treat people with respect.

Be sure that your teen is supervised. Parents should know where teens are, who they are with, what they are doing, and when they will be home. Setting up boundaries and expectations for their activities will help guide them when they are making decisions for themselves.

If a teen is in an abusive relationship, their health and safety may be at risk. They need help. If they are in immediate danger, call 911.

The Family Advocacy Program can provide helpful information and available resources by calling at 229-257-4805. In addition, the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Information is available from,

We all have the right to relationships free from violence.