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Teen Dating Violence – It’s Worse Than Parents Think

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The recent dating abuse case between Rihanna and Chris Brown has shown a spotlight on a serious
and growing problem in our society – teen date violence. The photos that were leaked to the press of
Rihanna after she was beaten up by Brown were horrifying. They showed a beautiful young girl bloody,
bruised and victimized by someone who professed to love her. While this is tragic, it’s a wake-up call
for parents as to what is happening in teen relationships all over the country. And it’s an opportunity to
have a conversation with young girls about the importance of self-esteem and acceptable behavior in a

Most parents don’t realize the extent of date violence and abuse among teens. According to a study
conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU):

  • 1 in 5 teens that have been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a
  • 1 in 3 girls who have been in a serious relationship say they’ve been concerned about being
    physically hurt by their partner.
  • 1 in 4 teens who have been in a serious relationship say their boyfriend or girlfriend has tried
    to prevent them from spending time with friends or family; the same number have been
    pressured to only spend time with their partner.
  • 1 in 3 girls between the ages of 16 and 18 say sex is expected for people their age if they’re in
    a relationship; half of teen girls who have experienced sexual pressure report they are afraid the
    relationship would break up if they did not give in.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 girls who have been in a relationship (23%) reported going further sexually than
    they wanted as a result of pressure.

Not only is dating abuse and violence escalating, but verbal abuse through texting, Facebook and chat
rooms is on the rise and not being fully reported. In New York City the number of teen calls to the
Domestic Violence Hotline have risen dramatically from 9,462 in 2006 to 16,861 in 2007. An article in the
Journal of the American Medical Association reported that violent relationships in adolescence can have
serious ramifications for victims. Teenage relationship violence has been linked to increased drug abuse,
eating disorders, suicide and adult re-victimization.

States are becoming aware of the situation however and are now holding town hall meetings and
community forums to address these issues. In fact, on March 31st, the Pennsylvania House of
Representatives passed a resolution recognizing April as “Teen Dating Violence Awareness and
Prevention Month.”

Unfortunately while many teens recognize this is a serious problem, they are not telling their parents out
of fear or embarrassment. The result is a widening gap between what’s happening to teens and what
their parents are aware of. It’s vital that parents recognize the signs of teen dating abuse:

  • Isolation – has your daughter stopped hanging out with her friends and family to exclusively be with her boyfriend?
  • Emotional Changes – has she become withdrawn or sad?
  • Jealousy Issues – does her boyfriend flying into jealous rages if she speaks to another boy?
  • Making Excuses for Him – does she make excuses and blame herself if they have an argument and he verbally abuses her?

If your daughter is exhibiting any one of these behaviors it’s important to start a conversation and let her
know you’re there to help. Many times she might be afraid to tell you what’s going on. Her boyfriend
might be threatening to expose nude photos of her or in some other way blackmail her. She needs to
know that you love her unconditionally. Talk to her about the specific issues that you’ve noticed and give
her guidelines on how to end the relationship. Explain to her that abuse usually begins with taunting,

teasing and put downs but usually escalates to physical violence. Enlist the support of psychologists and
school administrators and make sure she knows that you will intervene on her behalf.

For more information and resources, visit

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