Parent’s Guide to Teen Dating Abuse

Teen dating abuse is similar to and can be as lethal as adult relationship violence. Both include hitting, yelling, threatening, name calling and other forms of verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse. About one in ten teen couples is affected by dating violence. These facts make it very important for parents to be aware of abusive relationships.

How Can You Tell if Your Teen is a Victim of Dating Abuse?

Is you teen withdrawing from school activities?
Has your son or daughter become secretive, ashamed or hostile to (or isolated from parents, family or friends because of the relationship?
Does your teen’s partner call several times a night or show up unexpectedly to “check up?”
Does your son or daughter apologize for his/her partner’s behavior?
Has your teen stopped hanging out with friends?

Other Warning Signs

Physical bruises, signs of injury or damaged personal property. Be aware of explanations that seem out of place or changes in make-up or dress.
The use of alcohol or other drugs could be a teen’s response to pressure from his/her partner. It may also be an attempt to numb pain or emotions. However, substance abuse is no excuse for or escape from violent behavior. If the alcohol or other drugs were taken away, the underlying causes and the violence in the relationship may still not be resolved.

If you notice any of the behaviors described above in your teen, it is an indication that your teen may be involved in dating violence.

What Can You Do to Help Your Abused Teen

Make sure the timing is right. Talk about the abuse when you are sharing time together.
Use “I” statements when describing your feelings. Let your teen know how concerned you are about his/her safety, well-being and security.
Be sure to have specific examples to share with your son or daughter that concern you.
Listen and believe in your teen. Speak with sensitivity, support and care.
Remember, if your teen does open up to you, it is possible that you will hear uncomfortable details. It is imperative that you are nonjudgmental by focusing on resolving the problem (the behavior) rather than criticizing your teen.
Be a comfort zone for your teen.
Let your teen have some control in making decisions. His/her self-esteem and confidence may have been lowered by the abusive partner.
Be a role model for supportive, healthy relationships with your own partner.
Help your teen create a safety plan for when he/she is at school and out with friends.
Contact your local law enforcement agency or battered women’s shelter about procedures for obtaining restraining or stay-away orders.

Things Not to Say or Do

Do not be critical of your teen or his/her partner.
Don’t ask blaming questions such as: “Why don’t you break up with him/her?” or “What did you say to provoke your partner?”
Don’t pressure your teen into making quick decisions.
Don’t talk to both teens together. The victim may feel inhibited about what he/she can say.
Don’t assume that the victim wants to leave the abusive relationship. Assist him/her in assessing the situation.

Where to go for Information and Help

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1.800.799.7233

Source: California Attorney General’s Office