What is Teen Dating Abuse?

Teen dating abuse is an intentional pattern of behavior used to gain power and control over someone you are or were dating. There are different types of abuse, including physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, cyber/digital, and cultural/religious. Teen dating abuse can affect anyone – in relationships of all ages, regardless of race, religion, culture, sexuality, or socioeconomic status – and both males and females can be victims or abusive partners in opposite-sex or same-sex relationships.

How Common is Teen Dating Abuse?

Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. [1]  Nearly 1 in 2 teens in relationships report being controlled, threatened, and pressured to do things they did not want to do by a girlfriend/boyfriend. [2]  And 1 in 3 teens say they are text messaged 10, 20, 30 times an hour by a partner inquiring where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with. [3] 

What are Some Warning Signs of Abuse?

  • Every relationship is unique, and warning signs of abuse vary, but often include a boyfriend/girlfriend:
  • controlling who you hang out with (friends, family, coaches, etc.)
  • being extremely jealous/possessive
  • controlling where you go after school and on the weekends
  • monitoring your cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • giving you a bad gut feeling or creeping you out
  • demanding you dress a certain way
  • showing up where you are unexpectedly or uninvited
  • constantly checking in with you through phone calls, texts, etc.
  • manipulating you: using guilt trips, silent treatment or threats to get their way
  • making the relationship all on their terms (they don’t return your calls, but they expect you to answer every time they call)
  • using jokes, threats or derogatory names about you or your gender
  • being critical or mean about you, your friends, your family, etc.

So, How Can You Help a Friend Whose Boyfriend or Girlfriend is Being Abusive?

Helping a friend in need is really challenging. Be specific. Let your friend know that you see changes in them and that you are worried about them. Always let them know that you are there for them. Remember that you are there to help them make a plan to stay safe, not to make decisions for them.  They have been controlled and manipulated into doing things they may not want to, so empower them by trusting them to know what’s right for them, with your help.  You can help them gain back their power and have resources ready if they decide to leave their relationship.  You can also help them think about their safety, like coming up with a unique code word to let you know that they need your help now!

What Services Does MSP Provide for Teens?

MSP’s Domestic Violence Education and Prevention (DVEP) Program provides individual counseling for youth between 14-18 years old who witness intimate partner abuse in their home or are experiencing abuse in their own relationship.  Sometimes having an outside person to talk to can really help.  We also talk about specific ways to stay safe, both while in the relationship and when a teen feels ready to leave the relationship.  

What You Can Do:

  • The Healthy Relationships (Anti-Teen Dating Abuse) curriculum is designed for 8th-12th graders and focuses on educating students about healthy relationships, the types of abuse and what they can look like, the warning signs of abuse, and what to do if you or a friend is being abused by their partner. DVEP presentations engage students through interactive activities and discussion groups.If this sounds interesting, ask a teacher, counselor, or other school official to invite us to your school for a presentation by filling out this form.
  • Are you interested in learning more about Teen Dating Abuse or volunteering to help prevent it? Join SAFER (Students Advocating For Equality in Relationships), our teen volunteer program!

SAFER offers you an opportunity to earn community service hours by participating in trainings, activities, leading or attending workshops, community outreach and program development. SAFER meets between 2-3 times a month after school (3-5pm) with the goal of empowering teens to become advocates in their own communities.

Why Us?

The DVEP staff is a welcoming and inclusive group of individuals who are excited to work with teens to explore the best ways to end teen dating abuse.

For more information on all of DVEP’s programs, call us at (914) 358-0333 and ask for the DVEP team!  Or email us at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

[1] Loveisrespect.org, “Dating Abuse Statistics,” February 2012.
[2] Liz Claiborne foundation, Troubled Economy Linked to High Levels of Teen Dating Violence & Abuse Survey, 2009.
[3] Liz Claiborne foundation, Technology and Teen Dating Abuse survey, 2007.