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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Dating violence is more common than you may think, especially among teens and young adults: 1 in 3 U.S. teens will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with before becoming adults.

Knowing the signs of an abusive teenage relationship can help parents protect their children and teach them the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship so their child is better prepared to avoid someone with “red flags” in the future.

It’s important to remember that both boys and girls may be involved in abusive relationships and abusers can be hetero and homosexual. By the time they are teenagers, most kids know that physical violence is wrong. Slapping, hair-pulling, pinching, or scratching are obvious physical abuse.

Here’s a few common signs of physical abuse:

  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Changes in their appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Changes in their friend group or interest in extracurricular activities
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Making excuses for their partner’s behavior
  • Unexplained bruising or other injuries

Emotional abuse can be harder to detect and can take many forms- especially for teens trying to navigate a romantic relationship for the first time.

Here’s a few common signs of emotional abuse:

  • Controlling behavior, such as forbidding their partner from being around friends
  • Manipulative behavior, such as threatening a break-up or self-harm
  • Stalking and harassment, both in-person and online
  • Possessiveness or extreme jealousy

If your teen’s partner is asking them to do anything they are not comfortable with, including pressuring them sexually (both in-person and by asking for explicit photos), they are a victim of emotional abuse.

If you know a teen or parent that could benefit from speaking to a caring, well-trained peer advocate, please connect them with the National Dating Abuse Helpline, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at 1-866-331-9474 (TTY: 1-866-331-8453), by texting “loveis” to 77054, or through live chat at

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