Teen dating violence (TDV) is all too common. The high prevalence of TDV illustrates that it is imperative for parents and adult peer supports to engage with youth in conversation about their dating and relationship experiences.
Data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) 2020 Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicates that about one in 11 female teens and one in 15 male teens report they experienced dating violence in the past year. And one of the only studies to date specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) teens (conducted by the Urban Institute in 2010) finds that LGBTQ youth experience significantly higher rates of TDV than non-LGBTQ youth. Additional studies and research show that TDV is also more prevalent among Black and African American teens as well as youth of color from marginalized racial and ethnic groups.
TDV can take many forms including physical violence, sexual violence, emotional and verbal abuse, stalking, and digital abuse. According to a 2007 US Department of Justice/Bureau of Justice Statistics report, Intimate Partner Violence in the United States, only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. It is crucial that parents and other trusted adults talk with youth in their lives about dating violence and recognize signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Information, open communication, and positive adult relationships are key protective factors for youth.
Keep the lines of communication open and spend quality time with your children. Check in with them about their relationships and ask if they have any questions or concerns. For additional guidance, you can check out One Love’s guide for talking to young people about domestic violence.
Some ideas for engaging youth in talking about healthy relationships:
- Explore the great videos, interactive session, and resources for teens (and parents) from One Love and loveisrespect. Check out the sites together with your teen and also make sure to give them time to explore on their own!
- Popular shows and movies frequently romanticize unhealthy relationships. Watch your children’s favorite show together. Keep One Love’s list of healthy signs and unhealthy signs nearby and jot down what you see in the show. Make it a fun game – eat a piece of popcorn for every positive relationship action and a sour candy for every unhealthy one!
- Practice makes perfect! Role play with your teen how to tell someone they are being too clingy without hurting their feelings, setting boundaries, saying “no,” and practicing open communication. The more they practice a technique, the easier it will be to use it when a situation arises.
- Gender stereotypes play a large role in domestic violence. Society often tells us that men should be the leader in a relationship – and this can lead to the belief that men should control women, at any cost. Support youth in dissecting gender stereotypes together. Explore the idea that it is a good thing for boys/men to express their emotions. Discuss what roles your youth believes that girls/women and boys/men should play in a relationship and why. Also, check out the Girl Scouts’ guide to busting gender stereotypes for more tips.
- Let your kids engage in the coloring book created by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, designed to bring together creativity and dialogue surrounding healthy relationships!
- For younger children, set them on the right path by talking about what it means to be a friend, recognizing and identifying emotions, setting boundaries, solving conflict, and breaking gender stereotypes. For more tips, check out Planned Parenthood’s guide for developing healthy relationships for elementary school aged children.
If your teen needs support but doesn’t feel comfortable talking with you, here are some resources:
- Teen Link: Their teen volunteers are trained to listen to your concerns and talk with you about whatever’s on your mind – bullying, drug and alcohol concerns, relationships, stress, depression, or any other issues you’re facing. No issue is too big or too small! Call 1.866.TEENLINK (1.866.833.6546) between 6-10pm any night of the week or go to the Teen Link website and click on the chat icon found at the bottom of the homepage.
- TEEN LINE | Teens Helping Teens: Do you need help working something out? Do you want to talk to someone who understands, like another teen? Call 1.310.855.HOPE (1.310.855.4673) or 1.800.TLC.TEEN (1.800.852.8336) from 6-10pm or text “TEEN” to 839863 between 6-9pm to speak with one of their teens for help.
- The NW Network: The NW Network offers a wide range of supports to LGBTQ youth and young adults (ages 13 – 24) around issues of violence and crime, such as dating violence, bullying, hate violence, physical and sexual assault, exploitation, theft, police harassment, and experiences in the sex trades.
- The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people. Call the TrevorLifeline at 1.866.488.7386 for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Crisis Connections: This 24-hour Crisis Line provides immediate help to individuals, families, and friends of people in emotional crisis. They can help you determine if you or your loved one needs professional consultation and can link you to the appropriate services. They are a primary source for linking Seattle-King County residents to emergency mental health services. Call the Crisis Line at 1.866.427.4747 for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Coming soon: Understanding the barriers in leaving an abusive relationship
Domestic Violence Help in Seattle/King County
Call 206.299.2500 for Solid Ground’s confidential Domestic Violence shelter services and/or 2.1.1 toll-free at 1.800.621.4636, M-F, 8am-6pm for info about all King County resources.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1.800.799.7233 or TTY 1.800.787.3224
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