It is estimated that nearly one million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner every year, with girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experiencing the highest rate of violence. Upwards of 90% of female victims between the ages of 16 to 19 indicate that they are the target of abuse from a current boyfriend or girlfriend, and nearly 25% of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.
The consequences of these horrible and violent acts can be significant. Victims of violent relationships have a higher risk for eating disorders, promiscuity, and substance abuse. Teen girls who are abused are six times more likely to become pregnant, twice as likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and run a higher risk for suicide. Yet over 80% of parents surveyed believe that teen dating violence is not an issue. In fact, many parents mistakenly believe that they could recognize if their child was being abused and yet over half could not correctly identify all the warning signs. To further complicate the situation, only one-third of teens who were in abusive relationships confided in anyone about their circumstances.
Dating violence can in fact take many forms, including physical abuse, verbal or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and digital abuse (i.e., the use of technology and/or social media). It's vital to know the common warning signs.
Intruding on your privacy: checking your email or cell phone without your permission.
Verbal abuse: constantly berating you or putting you down in private or in front of other people.
Jealous behavior: exhibiting extreme insecurity or jealousy over you actions and words.
Explosive temper: losing their cool over issues both big and small.
Isolating you: preventing you from being with your family or friends.
Falsely accusing you: making false accusations of your actions or motives.
Moodiness: when their mood fluctuates wildly for no apparent reason.
Physical abuse: using physical means to hurt or frighten you.
Thinks they own you: when a partner is possessive and tries to control you as their own.
Being bossy: telling you what to do to serve their own needs.
While dating violence is often defined as a pattern of abusive behavior intended to exert control and power, that does not mean a single abusive incident is not dating violence. While every situation is different, it is important to keep in mind that violence can escalate over time, making it increasingly dangerous for the victim.