How much do you know about your teen’s relationship with his or her partner?
While the majority of teen relationships are fairly normal, teen dating violence is probably more common than you think.
According to LoveIsRespect.org, one third of U.S. adolescents are victims of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from someone they are dating. And almost 1.5 million high schoolers deal with physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
And when you add drugs to the equation it only makes things worse.
Drug use can drastically change a person’s behavior, and as a consequence, have a negative impact on close relationships.
In fact, a 2017 study made the connection between teen dating violence and the misuse of prescription drugs. Researchers found that among young males, non-medical use of prescription drugs was connected to dating violence. And among the females, the non-medical use of prescription drugs was connected more often with the physical form of dating violence.
What about other drugs? Well cocaine, for example, can cause its users to be aggressive and paranoid; two traits that are likely to contribute to a hostile, abusive relationship.
From the National Institute on Drug Abuse article, "Love and Drugs and Violence":
"Being drunk or drugged can make someone more likely to physically or emotionally hurt a person they’re in a relationship with. Drugs and alcohol make it harder to keep your emotions in check and to make the right choices.
They also make it easier to act impulsively without thinking through the consequences."
Types of Dating Violence
It’s important to note that dating violence can take on different forms. Here are four types (according to the CDC):
Physical – when a person hits, kicks, shoves his or her partner
Psychological/emotional – could include name calling, bullying and isolation
Sexual – forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when they don’t want to; threatening to spread rumors if a partner doesn’t want to have sex
Stalking – constant, unwanted harassment
Dating violence also occurs over a computer or smartphone, and includes someone repeatedly texting a partner, or even posting a partner’s nude photos online.
How to Help Your Teen
Recognize the signs. LoveisRespect.org has a list of warning signs of abuse which include:
- Your teen’s partner is jealous or possessive
- Unexplained bruises or marks on your teen
- Your teen is depressed; stops participating in activities they once loved
- You teen is constantly texted by his/her partner
Talk to your teen. Set aside some quiet time to talk to your teen, one-on-one, if your suspect they may be having serious issues in their relationship. See some good tips and potential questions at BreaktheCycle.org.
Help them get professional help. Often, your teen won’t feel comfortable talking to you about these issues. If that’s the case, point them towards the resource below:
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 (you can also chat via the loveisrespect.org website, or text “love is” to 22522 to connect with a peer advocate 24/7)
If you think your teen is in immediate danger, call 911.
Educating yourself on teen dating violence and abuse (learning the signs, prevention measures, and its causes) can help you start a conversation with your young loved one early on before he or she starts to date. Check out some of the resources below to learn more.
- Love is Respect.org website
- “Understanding Teen Dating Violence” (factsheet by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- “Physical and Sexual Dating Violence and Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs” (Pediatrics journal article)
- "A Parent’s Guide to Teen Dating Violence: 10 Questions to Start the Conversation" (Breakthecycle.org website)
Teen Dating Violence Prevention Resources for 2022 (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)
Teen Dating Violence (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)