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Did you know: 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a dating partner?

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and it’s a good time to remind teenagers how to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name-calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.

Teen dating violence is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional aggression within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.

How common is dating abuse? It’s more common than you might imagine. In fact, 1 in 3 high school students in the U.S. experiences physical or sexual violence or both from a dating partner. Many teens do not report it because they are afraid to tell friends and family. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 percent of high school students reported physical violence and 7 percent reported that they experienced sexual violence from a dating partner in the previous 12 months.

Here in Massachusetts, 13 percent of high school girls and 6 percent of boys who have dated said they have experienced physical or sexual dating violence.

It is critical that parents and caregivers understand the issue and what to do about it. For example, you can:

  • Start talking to your kids about healthy relationships early – before they start dating.
  • Be a role model – treat your kids and others with respect.
  • Get involved with efforts to prevent dating violence at your teen’s school.
  • If you are worried about your teen, call the loveisrespect helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522.

Text and SMS info

Many organizations provide direct services to young people who experience dating violence. For example, the National Dating Abuse Helpline provides 24-hour national web-based and telephone resources to help teens experiencing dating abuse. Break the Cycle is a national nonprofit organization that provides education and outreach to teens and young adults, and their Love is Not Abuse campaign includes comprehensive resources for parents, a digital curriculum, and tips for engaging men and boys.

You can also visit our DPH website here.

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health communication writer and editor

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