Understanding Teen Dating Violence

Two teenagers holding a piece of paper with a heart on it in a classroom

Dating is exciting — there's no doubt about it. And when you're new to it, it can be hard to know what a good date or a good relationship looks and feels like. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't. If your boyfriend or girlfriend is hurting you — physically, emotionally or even online — that's called dating abuse, and it's never OK.

How it starts

Many times, dating abuse starts out as:

  • Teasing
  • Harassing
  • Excessive jealousy
  • Possessiveness

Teenagers may think these behaviors are a normal part of a relationship and interpret them as signs of love, but this type of emotional abuse can set the stage for more serious physical violence.

Physical abuse


a safety plan with the help of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE).

Physical abuse includes any form of unwanted contact, such as:

  • Punching
  • Scratching
  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Grabbing
  • Forced sexual acts

Abusive relationships often get worse over time. Physical violence can become more severe and frequent if left unchecked.

Emotional abuse


a Military OneSource consultant if you're not sure how to talk to your parents about what's happening (1-800-342-9647).

Emotional abuse may be subtle, but it is often a warning sign of an unhealthy relationship. This type of abuse may include:

  • Yelling
  • Name-calling
  • Threatening
  • Humiliation
  • Stalking
  • Controlling when dating partners see friends and family
  • Influencing what dating partners do and wear

Emotional abuse may not leave physical scars, but it can cause emotional damage. Such abuse can cause:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Physical violence

Digital abuse

Digital abuse can include harassment or threats sent through:

  • Email
  • Texts
  • Social media sites

Additional warning signs include:

  • Use of social media sites to stalk or keep tabs on a dating partner
  • Constant text messaging
  • Sending explicit photos

Where to find help

If you are mistreated by your dating partner, don't be ashamed. It's not your fault, and you're not alone. Keep yourself safe while you get help and decide what to do. You can seek help from:

  • Friends
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • School counselors
  • Trusted adults

Trained advocates are also available online at the National Domestic Violence Hotline or via phone at 800-799-SAFE anytime you want to talk. You can also contact Military OneSource online or via phone at 800-342-9647 and talk to a consultant who can refer you to someone who can help in your local community.


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