Image of a teen girl looking at iphone concerned about Teen Dating Violence

For many teens, there’s nothing more exciting than getting a text or Facebook notification from a crush. But what happens when that excitement turns into fear and anxiety?

Each year, nearly 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. will experience abuse from a dating partner. Teen dating violence is defined as physical, sexual, psychological and emotional violence within a romantic relationship. It can happen in person or electronically and occur between current or former dating partners.

According to Caroline Davis, director of the Teen Health Center at SBH, teens will model their behavior after the adults around them. The kind of relationships they witness in their home is what they will consider to be normal. However, what may start out as light teasing, such as name-calling and play fighting, can lead to more serious situations, such as a nude photo or video used as blackmail for money or sexual favors.

‘Often times, the victim will start to believe the taunts of their abuser, that they are weak or stupid.’
Only one-third of the victims of teen dating violence will tell anyone about it. “Often times, the victim will start to believe the taunts of their abuser, that they are weak or stupid,” says Davis. This will often lower the teen’s self esteem. They may also experience depression and engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse. Being involved in an unhealthy relationship can also have lasting effects into adulthood, leaving one at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and additional domestic violence.

Parents can make a big difference in helping their children overcome dating violence. By engaging in conversation daily, parents can establish themselves as a trusted person to reach out to. Parents can also be a role model for a supportive and healthy relationship. It is equally important that teens have a comfortable and open space to discuss their relationship issues.

If you think your teen may be affected by dating violence, please contact the Teen Health Center at 718-220-2170. There, they will have access to a range of lifestyle and healthcare resources.

Christine Zhuang