Up until a few years ago, I'd never heard much about teen dating abuse and violence and wrongly assumed it was mainly limited to adult relationships. I just didn't realize how prevalent it was among our youth. But, it starts somewhere and that is often with young people who are entering into relationships for the very first time. They often mimic the behaviors they've seen growing up. And, because they're new to relationships, young people can misinterpret controlling as caring, and not understand the warning signals of abuse until it is out of control. To understand the severity of the problem, the CDC reports that one in ten high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. This statistic only reflects physical violence. If we include emotional and verbal abuse in teen dating relationships, the stat jumps to one in three teens.
Digital Dating Abuse
A rising trend in dating abuse is the use of technology to harass, threaten and control the dating partner from a distance – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Through the use of technology such as cell phones, email, and social networking, the abuser can gain access into what once were safe havens for the abused partner - school, extra-curricular activities and home - to apply a relentless barrage of insults and/or demands that are not visible to parents or other adult caregivers. Digital dating abuse can include:
• Checking the dating partner's cell phone for outgoing and incoming calls, texts and images.
• Controlling the dating partner's friends on social networking sites.
• Demanding or stealing the dating partner's account passwords to keep tabs on them.
• Pressuring or demanding the dating partner share sexually explicit images and/or videos of themselves.
• Constantly texting the dating partner to find out where they are and what they are doing (the abused partner often feels obligated to have their cell phones with them at all times so they can respond quickly for fear of being punished).
• Insulting or threatening the dating partner through emails, texts, tweets, and even status updates.
Learning More & Getting Help
There are a number of sites that provide resources and help for those in abusive dating relationships or those who know someone that is:
Breakthecycle.org is the leading, national nonprofit organization addressing teen dating violence. Break the Cycle engages, educates and empowers youth to build lives and communities free from domestic and dating violence.
Loveisrespect.org is a collaboration between Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline. Love Is Respect's mission is to: create the ultimate resource fostering healthy dating attitudes and relationships, provide a safe space for young people to access information and help in an environment that is designed specifically for them, and ensure confidentiality and trust so young people feel safe and supported-online and off.
- The National Dating Abuse Helpline is the direct service provider behind loveisrespect.org, operating the 24/7 phone, text and chat services. The Helpline offers real-time, one-on-one support from peer advocates who have been trained to offer support, information and advocacy to those involved in dating abuse relationships as well as concerned friends, parents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement and service providers.
Loveisnotabuse.com is an online resource provided by Liz Claiborne Inc. to help end domestic violence. Love Is Not Abuse initiatives strive to address partner abuse at its root cause and therefore the company has begun a sustained effort to focus on teen dating abuse and violence. Liz Claiborne Inc. provides free resources to all members of society.
Thatsnotcool.com is a national public education campaign that uses digital examples of controlling, pressuring, and threatening behavior to raise awareness about and prevent teen dating abuse. That's Not Cool is sponsored and co-created by Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund), the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, and the Advertising Council.