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Dating violence is controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship intended to purposely hurt or scare a partner.

This behavior can take the form of physical, sexual, psychological, and/or emotional violence and can occur in person or electronically. Dating violence is often associated with young adults, as they are often making their way through the dating scene. Abuse does not discriminate toward races, cultures, incomes, ages, education levels, or sexual orientations; it can happen to anyone.

Teen Power & Control Wheel


Teens and young adults are the most active technology and social media users among all age groups. Though these tools are meant to be used for good, they can be misused. If the correct steps are not taken to ensure internet safety, perpetrators of dating violence, stalking, and even sexual assault have easier access to victims.


The following tips are helpful in distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy cyber behavior:


  • An abuser may persistently text, email, or call you throughout the day to “check up”. Do not confuse this with flattery; this is a form of control and possession. Do not respond to these attempted contacts.

  • An abuser may check your texting, calling, or internet history, or they may monitor your searches. If you are concerned that your abuser may jeopardize your safety due to your search results, contact law enforcement immediately.

  • If you or someone you know is sexually assaulted at a party, save pictures found on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media outlets. Any traces of information can be used as evidence for a case.

  • Be very careful when using sites like Craigslist. If you are asked to meet for whatever reason, do so in a public place and bring people to assist you. Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

  • Do not post private details on social media outlets, such as your phone number or home address.

  • Do not update your Facebook or Twitter status with the location tool.

  • Make sure your private details are hidden on your accounts.

  • Have law enforcement numbers readily available on your communication devices.


Do you know or suspect that your teen is a victim of dating violence or sexual assault? We know it can be difficult to face this reality, and your initial reaction may be to express any number of emotions such as anger, sadness, withdrawal, depression, and so on.

These feelings are normal, but use caution in how you handle the situation in front of your child. They too are experiencing unusual emotions and they need your support. Stay calm and collected and become familiar with ways you can help your teen and yourself. No one is better positioned to make a difference in the lives of young people than parents. Your concerns about your child staying clear of abuse, being respectful of others, and finding healthy relationships need to be discussed. Your values are the ones that matter most.

10 Tips on Talking about Healthy Relationships with Teens

  1. Encourage open, honest, and thoughtful reflection. Talk openly with young teens about healthy relationships. Allow them to articulate his or her values and expectations for healthy relationships. Rather than dismissing ideas as “wrong”, encourage debate —this helps young people come to his or her own understanding.

  2. Be sensitive and firm. Parenting a young teen is not easy—especially when it comes to helping him or her navigate their way through relationships. To be effective, you will need to find the balance between being sensitive and firm. Try to adapt to the changes faced by your child. Be willing to talk openly and respect differences of opinion. And, realize that the decisions you make will sometimes be unpopular with your young teen.

  3. Understand teen development. Adolescence is all about experimentation. From mood swings to risk taking, “normal teenage behavior” can appear anything-but-normal. New research, however, reveals that brain development during these formative years play a significant role in young teen’s personality and actions. Knowing what’s “normal” is critical to helping you better understand and guide young people.

  4. Understand the pressure and the risk teen’s face. Preteens and young teens face new and increasing pressures about sex, substance abuse and dating. Time and time again, young teens express their desire to have parents/role models take the time to listen to them and help them think through the situations they face – be that person!

  5. Take a clear stand. Make sure young teens know how you feel about disrespect, use of abusive or inappropriate language, controlling behavior, or any forms of violence,

  6. Make the most of “teachable moments”. Use TV episodes, movies, music lyrics, news, community events or the experiences of friends to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships.

  7. Discuss how to be an ‘upstander’. Teach teens how to stand-up for friends when he or she observes unhealthy treatment of his or her peers.

  8. Accentuate the positive. Conversations about relationships do not need to focus solely on risky behavior or negative consequences. Conversations should also address factors that promote healthy adolescent development and relationships.

  9. Be an active participant in your young teen’s life. Explore ways to know more about your young teen’s friends and interests. Find activities you can do together.

  10. Be prepared to make mistakes. You will make mistakes. Accept that you will make mistakes, but continue to help teens make responsible choices while trying to maintain that delicate balance of being sensitive, but firm.

Starting the Conversation

Q: What’s a good setting to have this conversation?

A: Never tell your teen you want to talk in front of other people, except perhaps your child’s other parent or guardian. Take your child out to a coffee shop or for a drive, away from siblings and distractions for both of you. Avoid going to a place where either one of you may run into someone you know. You will get answers if you set up a comfortable environment and listen respectfully.

Q: What should I hope to get out of this conversation?

A: First, you want to have a productive conversation. This means that through the process of your conversation, you want to support your child and confirm that you are a good resource and a non-judgmental listener. Second, you want to give your child realistic strategies for confronting the problem effectively. You will never accomplish the second goal without the first.

Q: Are there any specific tips on having this conversation?

A: Share your own experiences, especially the ones when you were your teen’s age, made mistakes and learned from them. Avoid talking about what you have recently experienced because you need to maintain boundaries—they need a parent figure now, not a friend. The hard reality is that you can’t always fix things for your kids, you can only try to give them the skills and support that set the foundation for doing it themselves.

Q: How can I tell if my teen might want to talk to me?

A: Anytime your teenager wants to talk to you, drop everything and pay attention. Watch for signs of your teen wanting to talk, such as if your teen hangs around where you are but doesn’t necessarily say anything, or if your teens says he or she doesn’t feel well but there doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong. Notice if your teen tries to get you alone, away from others—for example, if he or she volunteers to drive somewhere with you in the car. If your teen wants to talk to you but also couches it as “no big deal”, don’t believe it. Just by bringing it up, he or she is already telling you that it is a big deal.

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