About Teen Dating Violence

In the United States, dating violence is a significant issue and greatly impacts the lives of teens. In Contra Costa County, it is estimated 10,000 adolescents are victims of physical violence and between 20,000 and 30,000 adolescents are verbally or psychologically abused by a romantic partner each year.

  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year (1).

  • One in three teen girls are victims of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner (2).

  • Teens who are victims of dating violence are more likely to be depressed and do poorly in school (3).

  • Fifty percent of youth reporting both dating violence and rape also reported attempting suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys (4).

  • Fifty-seven percent of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a dating relationship (5).

  • Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse (5).

At the same time many parents surveyed believed teen dating violence is not an issue or didn’t know if it was an issue (6).

You can find more information at http://www.loveisrespect.org/.

What Is teen dating violence?

Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner (7).

Dating violence involves systematic patterns of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and may include the following types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or other type of physical force.

  • Sexual abuse is forcing a partner to take part in a sex act when the partner does not consent.

  • Emotional abuse is threatening a partner or their possessions or loved ones, or harming a partner’s sense of self-worth. Examples are stalking, name-calling, intimidation, or not letting a partner see friends and family and can include the use of words, gestures, weapons, or other means to communicate the intent to cause harm.

The abuse that teenagers may experience in their relationships has some similarities to abuse in adult relationships. But it also different. Because of a teenager’s age, life experience, and dependence on adults, being in an abusive relationship poses unique problems. Many times teens are scared to tell adults or their peers about the abuse. In addition, their relationships may not be taken seriously by the adults in their lives. Compounding these issues, teens often have an inability to avoid the abuser, i.e. if they attend the same school or participate in similar activities. Teens may face peer pressure to be or remain in relationships. On top of it all, there is often a significant lack of resources and services for teens in abusive relationships.

Digital technology (cell phones, texting, e-mail, and social networking) is a method that can be used to abuse and control. Digital abuse is often experienced by teens in an abusive relationship.

  • One in three teens say they are text messaged 10, 20, or 30 times an hour by a partner inquiring where they are, what they are doing, or who they are with.

  • Sixty-eight percent of teens say their partner’s sharing private or embarrassing pictures/videos on cell phones and computers is a serious problem.

  • Seventy-one percent of teens regard their partner’s spreading rumors about them on cell phones and social networking sites as a serious problem (8).

Our efforts to address teen dating violence must extend into the college years. 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors (9). Many college students share that it is often difficult to identify what dating abuse is and they don’t know how to help someone who is experiencing it.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Physical Dating Violence Among High School Students – United State, 2003,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 19, 2006, Vol. 55, No. 19.

  2. Davis, Antoinette, MPH. 2008. Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence Among Teens. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus.

  3. Banyard VL and Cross C. Consequences of Teen Dating Violence: Understanding Intervening Variables in Ecological Context. Violence Against Women. 2008.

  4. D.M. Ackard and D. Neumark-Sztainer, Minneapolis, MN. Date Violence and Date Rape Among Adolescents: Association with Disordered Eating Behaviors and Psychological Health, Child Abuse and Neglect. 2006.

  5. Liz Claiborne Inc., Conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, February 2005.

  6. Women’s Health,” June/July 200, Futures without Violence and Advocates for Youth.

  7. Break the Cycle - http://www.breakthecycle.org

  8. Technology and Teen Dating Abuse Survey, 2007.

  9. Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc. (Formerly: Liz Claiborne, Inc.), Conducted by Knowledge Networks, (December 2010). “College Dating Violence and Abuse Poll,” Available at: https://www.breakthecycle.org/dating-violence-research/college-dating-violence-and-abuse-poll. Click here to download this resource.