teen dating violence

Breaking the Silence: Understanding and Addressing Teen Dating Violence 

Teen dating violence is a prevalent, widespread issue that occurs more frequently than many realize. Studies show that one in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. Any teen can be a victim of dating violence, and some may not even realize that what they are experiencing is abuse. For this reason, it is important to understand the signs of an unhealthy, abusive relationship and raise awareness. Through education, we can empower teens to stay safe from abusive relationships. North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic stands as a steadfast ally for both teens and adults. Together we can end the cycle of violence.  

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence between two adolescents in a close relationship. The abuse can manifest in many various forms, including physical, sexual, emotional/verbal abuse, stalking, and virtual abuse. At its core, Intimate partner violence occurs when a partner is seeking power and control over the other.  

Who is at Risk?  

Teen dating violence can affect anyone, across all genders and socioeconomic groups, however, women, women of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately affected. 

The Signs of Teen Dating Violence for Teens:

A healthy relationship should make us feel good and bring out the best in us and our partners. While the signs of a healthy relationship are often clear, spotting the warning signs of an unhealthy one may not be as straightforward. If you or someone you know identifies with any of these warning signs, they could be experiencing dating violence: 

  • Your partner embarrasses you in front of others. 
  • They control who you can be friends with, where you go, or what you do. 
  • They move really fast at the beginning of the relationship 
  • They’re isolating you from family or friends 
  • They are excessively jealous or are accusing you of being unfaithful without merit 
  • They blame their behavior on you 
  • They are obsessively texting or calling you 
  • They threaten to hurt you or themselves because of something you did 
  • They’re having fits of rage when you’re alone but are nice with other people 
  • If you feel like they’re tracking you – they show up where you are even if you didn’t tell them where you are 

If you have identified yourself with any of these warning signs, look for someone you trust and talk to them. This can be your parents, your guardian, your friends, your school counselor, nurse, teacher, social worker, coach, whoever you trust – talk to them. Together, you can create a safety plan to help you leave an abusive relationship or help you respond to different scenarios. Learn more about safety plans below.  

If you have questions or concerns about an abusive relationship, please reach out to NSLAC. Support is always available.  

The Signs of Teen Dating Violence for Parents and Adults:

The warning signs of an unhealthy relationship may be very subtle, and it may be easy for teens to make a very convincing argument that they are okay. Below are some signs to look out for if you believe your teen is experiencing dating violence:  

  • Spending a lot less time with friends that they usually hang out with  
  • Declining grades, especially if a student used to have really good ones 
  • Covering up injuries or an explanation that doesn’t match the injury 
  • Not engaging in activities that they used to love 
  • Being anxious or nervous around their partner, or being concerned they’ll upset their partner 
  • Apologizing for their partner’s behavior or making excuses for it 
  • Extreme mood swings 
  • Unexplained medical issues like stomach issues, sleep problems, anxiety, chest pains, etc. 

How to Help a Teen Experiencing Teen Dating Violence?  

Adults, if you suspect your teen is in an abusive relationship, prepare before approaching them. Communication is key. We encourage you to do research on healthy and unhealthy relationships. When you are prepared to talk, choose an appropriate time and place, and discuss what you've observed with your teen. Encourage your teen to share their perspective and listen without judgment. 

It is not easy for teens to open up about something like this, so it is important to be understanding and assure them that they have done nothing wrong.  

And finally, believe what you hear. Avoid questioning or doubting. Ask your teen what they want to do next and be prepared to make a safety plan that fits their situation. If you need guidance, call us at North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic. 

What is a Safety Plan? 

A safety plan is a series of personalized and practical steps someone can take to improve their safety while experiencing abuse, preparing to leave their abusive situation or after they leave.   

Safety plans are tailored to the specific needs of the person and help them prepare and respond to scenarios, especially high-stress ones. Create a personal safety plan HERE. 

Seeking Support and Legal Guidance:

If you have identified yourself with any of the warning signs above, look for someone you trust and talk to them. If this is happening to a friend of yours, talk to someone you trust. If this is an emergency, please call 911 immediately.  

If you need legal assistance, North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic (NSLAC) provides free legal services to victims of abuse and violence. We can provide you with legal help to feel safe and heard.  

NSLAC provides legal support and assistance with orders of protection (for people with a pre-existing relationship), civil no-contact orders (typically used in cases of sexual assault), or stalking no-contact orders (where there might not be a romantic or family relationship but someone is still fearing for their safety and emotional well-being).  

If you or someone you know needs legal help or support, please contact NSLAC at 847-737-4042 or email info@nslegalaid.org 

Tips for Adults to Help Promote Healthy Relationship:  

Be a role model: Let the teens in your life see you treating your loved ones with the building blocks of a healthy relationship—compassion. respect and kindness.  

Talk and Listen: It is never too early to talk about respect. Communication is key. Engage in conversation with your teen about boundaries and consent and offer guidance on how to set their own boundaries.  

Talk About Dating: Ask your teen how they would like to be treated in a relationship and provide examples of what is and is not acceptable in a relationship. 

Encourage Open Communication: Let teens know that you are someone they can rely on without judgment. Engage them in positive adult-teen communication that makes them feel seen and heard. 

Conversations like this can be intimidating, but much like we want teenagers to receive respect from others, we also show respect for them through open and honest communication. 

Together We Break the Cycle:  

It is important that we continue the conversation of dating violence and healthy relationships. Please share this blog with your friends, and family, and on social media. Through collective awareness, we can continue to shed light on this prevalent issue that affects teens everywhere. Together, we can break the silence and end the cycle of abuse.

 Additional Resources:  

Love is Respect: Find resources on safety planning, how to talk to someone you think might be being abused, you can get individual support from experts on what to do. Hotlines are open 24/7. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Find information on the different kinds of abuse as well as identifying warning signs. Hotlines are open 24/7. 

North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic: Find additional resources, hotlines, and safety plans. 



Create a safety plan. (n.d.). Love Is Respect. https://www.loveisrespect.org/personal-safety/create-a-safety-plan/ 

Fast Facts: Preventing Teen Dating Violence |Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC. (2023, July 23). Www.cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teendatingviolence/fastfact.html#:~:text=Some%20teens%20are%20at%20greater 

How to help your child. (n.d.). Love Is Respect. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from https://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/how-to-help-child/ 

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. (2024, February). Love Is Respect. https://www.loveisrespect.org/get-involved/tdvam/ 

TIPS FOR TALKING TO TEENS ABOUT HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS. (2021). https://girlsincpnw.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Tips-for-Talking-to-Teens-About-Healthy-Relationships.pdf 

Warning signs of abuse. (n.d.). Love Is Respect. https://www.loveisrespect.org/dating-basics-for-healthy-relationships/warning-signs-of-abuse/ 

What is a Safety Plan? (n.d.). The Hotline. https://www.thehotline.org/what-is-a-safety-plan/ 

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