February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and a good opportunity to ensure that you’re familiar with how common teen dating violence is and how you can open up the conversation with the teen(s) in your life.

The cycle of dating violence can affect anyone, not just teens. However, teens may not yet have the communication skills, the confidence, or the relationship experience to recognize and combat violence when it does occur. As such, it’s up to parents, caregivers, and entire communities to be educated on teen dating violence facts and just how prevalent this issue is in younger generations.

To help you understand how serious this issue is, we’ve put together some basics that you should know during this Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, including a few tips for those looking to help spread the word about this important cause.

What is Teen Dating Violence

Millions of teens experience dating violence every single year, which is defined as physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse from a partner in a dating relationship.

Some fast facts about teen dating violence:

  • 26% of women and 15% of men experience violence from an intimate partner for the first time before the age of 18
  • Nearly 1 in 11 female teens and 1 in 15 male teens report having experienced physical violence from an intimate partner in the past year
  • About 1 in 9 female high school students and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual violence in the past year

Why is domestic abuse awareness important, especially when it comes to teens? Because as you can see from the statistics above, violence in teen relationships happens more often than you might think. And for younger individuals, having others in their lives who can understand—and take action—in the face of this violence could be crucial to healing and moving forward.

Talking to Teens about the Cycle of Dating Violence

The teen years are crucial during the development of young adults. During this time, many teens are beginning to analyze the world around them and are trying to determine how they fit within it. For a teenager, this world can be an exciting, yet unknown place and it’s important that parents and caregivers prepare their teens for all possibilities, including relationship violence. Talking about dating violence in all of its forms can help teens learn to recognize these situations before they become harmful, and may also give them the confidence needed to seek help.

Some things that you can do as a parent or educator include:

1. Use resources.

The statistics and existing information on teen dating violence may be uncomfortable to talk about, but they also highlight the importance of the issue. Back up conversation with resources, including facts that distill down just how common teen dating violence really is.

Be compassionate and understanding.

Teens need to know that they have adults in their lives that they can turn to for frank and open discussions about their relationships. Let them know you’re that person by being open minded in your dialogue and making it clear you’re there for judgment-free support.

2. Talk to all teens.

If you take one big thing away from Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, let it be the fact that violence in teen relationships is not gender exclusive. Female, male, and non-gender-identifying teens are all liable to experience violence from an intimate partner.

3. Get Involved and Spread the Word

There are two big ways to make your mark this month, and by educating yourself on the topic you’re already doing one of them. From here, seek to learn even more by looking up the signs of teen dating violence, which includes things like unusual moodiness, isolation, or anger, as well as rapid changes in behavior, physical appearance, or eating habits and physical signs of abuse like bruising.

Another thing that you can do is to engage in the current conversation on social media, using hashtags like #KnowYourWorth, #TDVAM, and #loveisrespect to share your own story or support those who are sharing theirs.

Intimate partner violence among teens is, unfortunately, all too common. For additional support, we invite you to learn more about Retreat Family and to contact us if you have questions or if you or a loved one are seeking mental health care. We also encourage you to visit our links page for additional resources.