Understanding Teen Dating Violence

BGCA is sunsetting the Year of the Teen Director’s App to consolidate practices, tips, and all other content in the YD Toolbox app and here on the Club Experience Blog. We will be featuring some of the articles that appeared in the app here (with updates!), as well as content just for staff who work with teens. Just search for the tag “teens” to find them all!

Teen dating violence is a growing concern. The nature of dating violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual, with both long- and short-term effects possible. Many teens don’t report such events because they are afraid to tell friends and family.

According to the CDC, teen dating violence includes four types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  • Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g. sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.
  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.
  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over another person.

Unfortunately, teen dating violence is a common issue. One in three young people in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Of these victims, girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of partner violence- almost triple the national average.


Teens who are victims often experience symptoms of depression and anxiety,  begin abusing drugs and alcohol, or exhibit antisocial behaviors and other risky behaviors. Loveisrespect lays out the long-lasting effects:

  • Violent relationships in the teen years puts victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, and further domestic violence.
  • Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant.
  • 50% of young people who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide.

Why is it so important for us to talk about these issues? Only 33% of teens in violent relationships will ever tell anyone. Additionally, many young people don’t know the warning signs or what constitutes abuse, even though they still experience the negative effects. At Boys & Girls Clubs, we have the chance to inform our young people and to support the development of healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships.


If you believe a teen is a victim of dating violence, listen to them without interrupting. Help them get informed about resources, and decide how you will proceed with informing parents and others, especially if you feel that their safety is in danger.




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