The Realities of Teen Dating Violence

Dating violence among teens has long-term effects on mental, physical, and emotional health.

By Ginny Dalton, LMSW
Social Worker, Outpatient/Ambulatory Clinics
Goldsbury Center for Children and Families
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

This year one in 13 teenage males, and one in nine females will experience physical intimate partner violence (IPV) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Though research is limited for teens within the LGBTQ community, they are at-risk for IPV at the same rates, if not higher than their heterosexual peers. Overall, dating violence is experienced at a higher rate when compared to other types of youth violence, particularly among teenage girls, and is likely to be more severe when experienced at a younger age. However, it is important to remember that anyone can experience IPV.

What is Dating/IPV?

IPV generally occurs between two people in a close relationship, and may present itself in some of the following ways:

  1. Sexual Violence: Unwanted/forced sexual activity, to include touching and threats.
  2. Emotional and Psychological Abuse: Calling names, keeping someone from seeing friends and family, possessive, controlling, intimidation, and blaming.
  3. Physical Abuse: Unwanted physical contact like biting, pulling hair, punching, kicking, and grabbing someone to keep them somewhere or to get their attention.
  4. Stalking Repeated watching, following, harassment that makes someone feel unsafe. This may include repeated calls, voicemails, text messages, showing up at one’s workplace, home, or school.
  5. Digital Abuse: In-person, or over social media (cyberbullying) Controlling friendships by texts, sending unwanted messages and pictures and/or posting them publicly online, checking partner’s phone frequently, limited privacy online, tracking whereabouts by phone, GPS, etc.

Why is this important, and what does it mean for the future?

Dating violence among teens has long-term effects on mental, physical, and emotional health. Teenagers who have experienced this are at-risk for drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, thinking about or attempting suicide, and engaging in risky sexual behaviors that may lead to pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What can we do?

Spread awareness. Talk about it. Create a safe and comfortable environment for conversation. Listen without judgement and be supportive.

Most teens in an abusive relationship never report, due to fear, lack of money and resources, or distrust of authority figures. More than half of parents are not aware of teen dating violence or do not think there is an issue.

IPV among teens is a national concern that is frequently overlooked. In recent years, Bexar County has ranked second in Texas for adult domestic violence cases, creating opportunities for the cycle of abuse to continue among teens and their dating partners.

Available Support

If you are experiencing abuse, you may request a referral from your medical provider to speak with a social worker or psychologist at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio or The Goldsbury Center for Children and Families. When appropriate, a referral can be made to The Center for Miracles at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, located at 315 N. San Saba, San Antonio, Texas 78207.