Data from the Centers for Disease Control suggests one in 12 high school students experiences physical dating violence. This is even more alarming because about eight out of ten instances of sexual assault occur between people who know each other. While talking to teenagers about dating violence is far from easy, it’s important that we equip them with the facts and the knowledge they need to stay safe, make good decisions and know when to ask for help.

Three things your teen should know about dating violence

  1. Abuse comes in all forms: There are different types of dating violence, including, but not limited to, physical, emotional and sexual violence.
  2. The components of a healthy relationship: Explain to your teen what a healthy relationship is based on. Are the relationships they are building based on trust, honesty, respect and independence or on disrespect, dishonesty, a lack of anger control and a lack of trust? Help your teen outline their expectations and be able to identify when someone is breaking their boundaries.
  3. It’s okay to walk away: Ensure your teen knows they are always free to walk away from an unhealthy or potentially unsafe situation or person. Disengaging also applies to their presence online, and you can help your teen navigate cyber harassment. If the situation escalates, ensure they know you are on their side and can involve the proper authorities as needed.

Teens and parents/caregivers alike should know they are not alone and that there are several resources to help navigate dating violence. Conversations around this topic, especially as your teen begins dating, should be ongoing and parents/caregivers should create a safe, judgment-free space for teens to be honest, ask for advice and help and know they have a support system no matter what.

If you or your child needs help to identify abuse or create a path to safety, the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (NTDAH) is here to help teens (ages 13-18) experiencing dating abuse. Teens and parents anywhere in the country can call toll-free, (866)-331-9474, or log on to the interactive website, loveisrespect.org, and receive immediate, confidential assistance.

Other Ways to Reach Help:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) | TTY 1.800.787.3224
  • Chat: Text “START” to 88788 or visit org.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Danielle Dooley Danielle Dooley, MD, is a general pediatrician who specializes in immigrant child health and school health. As Medical Director of Community Affairs and Population Health, she provides advocacy education for residents and faculty, participates in a new social determinants of health resource connection initiative within the primary care clinics and develops collaborations and strategies to improve population health for children across the institution and the District of Columbia.

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