1 out of 3 American teenagers will experience physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner before high school graduation. It’s not a matter of if it’s happening in middle school and high schools; it’s a matter of who is it happening to, and who is an abuser. Additionally, females between the ages of 16-24 are 3 times more likely to experience intimate partner violence than at any other age. These alarming statistics apply to any and all definitions of dating: in-person or online, casual or serious. They’re also completely preventable.
Teenagers in Somerset County schools have asked us, “Why don’t adults take our romantic relationships seriously?” They WANT to talk about relationship dynamics. Their curiosity and exploration aren’t going to end. Information is best coming from trusted adults, including family members and professionals that work with them. So, what can you do to help?
First, it’s useful to know the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Simply put, abuse is a pattern of behaviors used to gain power and control over another person in a dating relationship. It can take on many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, financial, verbal, digital, and stalking.
Possible warning signs that your preteen/teen is in an abusive relationship:
Acting nervous or fearful of a romantic partner’s reaction
Being worried when they can’t text or call their partner back immediately
Less interaction with and more isolation from friends and family members
Emphasis on how their partner wants them to dress and/or act