10 Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence

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Twenty-six percent of women and 15% of men who were victims of intimate partner violence reported that their first experience was before age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

George Mason University researcher Daphne King, EdD, assistant professor in the Department of Social Work, wants to use Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (February) to continue bringing awareness to intimate partner violence in young people.

“As with adult intimate partner violence, many teenagers who experience violence in their dating relationships do not tell anyone,” said King. “It is important to look out for warning signs and check in with anyone you know experiencing any of the signs.”

One in three teens in the United States will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. Teen dating violence includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking and can take place in person or electronically.

10 Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence

  1. Using insults, intimidation, or humiliation
  2. Extreme jealousy, insecurity, or controlling behavior
  3. Isolation from friends and family
  4. Unwanted sexual contact of any kind
  5. Explosive temper or unusual moodiness
  6. Constantly monitoring social media activities or location
  7. Invasions of privacy; showing up unannounced
  8. Leaving unwanted items, gifts, or flowers
  9. Abusing alcohol or drugs
  10. Threatening or causing physical violence; scratches, bruises

“Even just one of these warning signs indicates a risk of teen dating violence and that you or the person experiencing this needs help. While some of these signs can be associated with issues other than teen dating violence, it’s important to act on red flags like these,” said King.

Parent involvement is a protective factor to safeguard teens against engaging in risky behaviors. Here are a few tips especially for parents:

  • Talk honestly and openly with your teen about what healthy relationships look like and that violence (verbal, physical, or sexual) has no place in a healthy relationship.
  • Know and recognize the signs of abuse, as well as the facts of dating violence.
  • Look for changes in your teen's mood, appearance, or activities; which could be an indication that something is wrong or abuse is happening. This could be things, such as a drop in grades, unexplained bruises, or a change in friends or peer group.

Teen dating violence has a lifelong impact on a person’s health and can be detrimental to a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Violence can lead to antisocial behaviors and symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and future unhealthy relationships.

There are many resources available if you or someone you know is being abused. Talk to a trusted adult or visit loveisrespect.org or www.thatsnotcool.com  for support and help. Additional resource: National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788

Dr. Daphne King is an assistant professor and Master of Social Work online program director in the Social Work Department of George Mason University’s College of Public Health. King’s research interests are self-esteem issues in teens and adolescents, mental health concerns and treatment modalities for women of color, specifically African-American women, and the impact engagement in Christianity or spiritual practices have on self-esteem. King is an expert in treating teens and adolescents with self-esteem issues and depression and has facilitated numerous clinical and psychoeducational groups on self-esteem issues for teens.

To speak to Dr. King, contact Michelle Thompson at 703-993-3485 or mthomp7@gmu.edu.

About George Mason
George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public research university, enrolls 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. In 2022, Mason celebrates 50 years as an independent institution. Learn more on our homepage.

About the College of Public Health
The College of Public Health at George Mason University is the first and only College of Public Health in Virginia and a national leader in inclusive, interprofessional, public health research, education, and practice. The College is comprised of public health disciplines, health administration and policy, informatics, nursing, nutrition, and social work. The College offers a distinct array of degrees to support research and training of professionals dedicated to ensuring health and well-being for all. The College’s transdisciplinary research seeks to understand the many factors that influence the public’s health and well-being throughout the lifespan. Areas of focus include prevention and treatment of infectious and chronic diseases, inequalities and marginalized communities, environmental health and climate change, nutrition, violence, mental and behavioral health, informatics, and health technologies. With more than 500 partners, the College serves the community through research, practice, and clinical care with a focus on the social determinants of health and health equity. 

The College enrolls more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students in our nationally-recognized programs, including 6 undergraduate degrees, 8 master’s degrees, and 5 doctoral degrees, and 6 certificate programs. Our graduates are uniquely prepared to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, multidisciplinary, community-focused public health landscape.