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Domestic Violence: Teens


How To Help A Child                           Safety At Home                      

Safety Planning                                  Safety With Your Partner

How To Help A Friend                        What Teens Need Adults To Do

Safety At School                                 Safety When Breaking Up With Your Partner     


Early Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence

Are you going out with someone who:

  • Is excessively jealous?
  • Checks in with you constantly or makes you check in with them?
  • Has an explosive temper?
  • Is violent: has a history of fighting, abuses animals, brags about mistreating others?
  • Tries to control you by giving orders, making all the decisions, telling you what you should and should not wear?
  • Pressures you or is forceful about sex?
  • Isolates you from friends and family and puts down people who are important to you?
  • Believes in the stereotypical gender roles for males and females?
  • Gets too serious about the relationship too fast?
  • Blames you when they mistreat you? Tells you that you provoked them?
  • Does not accept responsibility for their actions?
  • Has a history of bad relationships and blames them on previous partners?
  • Makes you fear or worry about how they will react to things you say or do?
  • Owns or uses weapons?
  • Won't let you break up with them?

Adapted from The Dating Violence Intervention Project in Cambridge, MA and Chance for Change.


Safety Planning for Teens in Abusive Dating Relationships

General Safety:

  • Stay in touch with your friends and make it a point to spend time with people other than your partner.
  • Stay involved in activities that you enjoy.  Don't stop doing things that you enjoy or that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Make new friends.  Increase your support network.
  • Consider looking into resources at your school or in the community. Think about joining a support group or calling a crisis line.

Safety at School:

  • Try not to be alone.  Let your friends know what is happening and have them walk to classes and spend time with them during lunch.
  • Tell teachers, counselors, coaches, or security guards about what is happening.  Have them help you be safe.
  • Change your routine.  Don't always come to school the same way or arrive at the same time.  Always ride to school with someone.  If you take the bus, try to have someone with you.
  • Consider rearranging your class schedule.
  • Always keep extra change or a phone card with you so you can make phone calls.
  • Consider applying for an Order of Protection.

Safety at Home:

  • Try not to be alone.
  • Consider telling your parents or other family members about what is happening. They can help you screen your telephone calls or visitors.
  • Make a list of important phone numbers.  Included on this list should be emergency numbers like 911, as well as supportive friends who you call when you are upset.  Put the numbers of crisis lines on the list.
  • If you are alone at home, make sure the doors are locked and the windows are secure.

Safety With Your Partner:

  • Try not to be alone with your partner or be alone in an isolated or deserted location.  Go out to public places.
  • Try to double date or to go out with a group of people.
  • Let other people know what your plans are and where you will be.
  • Try not to be dependent on your partner for a ride.
  • Always keep extra change or a phone card with you in case you need to make a phone call.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel you are in danger, call the police. Get help immediately. Do not minimize your fears.

Safety When Breaking Up With Your Partner:

  • Break up with your partner in a public place.
  • Tell other people that you plan to break up with your partner.  Let them know where you will be.
  • Arrange to call a friend or a counselor after you talk with your partner so that you can debrief about what happened.

Information from Renton Area Youth Services and Youth Eastside Services.


How to Help a Friend

One out of every three teenage girls will experience violence in their dating relationship by the time she is 18.  If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, here is what you can do to help:

  • Listen. This might be the single most important and helpful thing that you can do.  Let them talk without interruption or judgment.
  • Believe. Tell your friend the abuse is not their fault and that they are not alone. Tell your friend that they do not ever deserve to be abused.
  • Know the Warning Signs of dating violence.  Help your friend recognize the abuse by asking questions about what is happening to them. Help your friend see that what is happening is not normal and is not acceptable. Tell them that the abuse will probably get worse. Suggest a safety plan.
  • Support Your Friend's Strength.  Recognize the things they do to take care of themselves.  Encourage your friend's courage.  Do not encourage them to stay in the relationship, but do not judge them for staying.
  • Protect Your Friend's Privacy. Talk to them in a safe and private place.  Respect their right to keep their concerns confidential.
  • Know Your Own Limits. Dating violence is serious. You cannot rescue your friend. Contact an expert on dating violence for your own support, and encourage your friend to do the same.  Give your friend the number for the Domestic Violence Advocate, (425) 430-6654, and/or urge them to talk to a safe adult about the abuse. Offer to go with your friend to talk with an adult they trust.  Do not take it personally if your friend refuses your help or does not want to share with you what is going on.

Information adapted from In Love and In Danger: A Teen's Guide to Breaking Free of Abusive Relationships, Levy, B. (1993) and Renton Area Youth Services.


How to Help a Child

Unique aspects to teen dating violence relationships:

  • Teens resist seeking help from parents and other adults, especially authority figures.  Fear of losing their newly gained independence can deter a teen from accessing resources.
  • Lack of experience in dating relationships makes teens more susceptible to gender stereotypes.
  • Romanticized ideals about relationships and love may cause teens to confuse jealousy, possessiveness, and abuse with signs of love and affection.
  • Lack of experience and peer group norms make it difficult for a victim to judge if their partner's behavior is out of line.  Isolation can make it even more difficult to do a "reality check."
  • Relationships are frequently perceived as very significant by teens.  Although they may be shorter in length, they can be experienced as intensely as adult relationships.
  • Teenage women are vulnerable because of the double standard of sexual morality for women and the resulting fear of a "bad reputation" among peers.*
  • Peer intervention can end or escalate a relationship. Many aspects of peer intervention may ultimately increase the risk to the victim.
  • The victim is often unable to avoid the abuser because they attend the same school.
  • Many adults do not take teen relationships seriously, discounting them as "puppy love" or over-dramatized.

Teens Need Adults To:

  • Listen
  • Model strength, openness, trust, and cooperation
  • Respect intelligence
  • Value their fears
  • Respect their desire to be independent
  • Provide a clear, understandable conceptual framework to aid in problem solving
  • Provide options
  • Prevent rudeness, judging (especially about appearance), lecturing, attitudes of disrespect
  • Emphasize local community information, services, and networks
  • Understand systematic mistreatment that young people receive in an adult-defined world and correct that mistreatment
  • Avoid victim blaming statements
  • Avoid reaffirming sex-role stereotypes
  • Believe in the severity of the abuse
  • Acknowledge the role of power and control in abusive relationships, and how authority figures can replicate that role
  • Validate the victim's concerns

Adapted from The Curriculum Project: The Minnesota Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

*Denise Gamache (74) in Barrie Levy's Dating Violence - Young Women in Danger.

Email the Domestic Violence Victim Advocate