Recognizing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence Toolkit

1.0 What is Teen Dating Violence?

Student sitting with hands clasped, looking down and dejected

Dating violence, also known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence, describes the physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse by a person to harm, threaten, intimidate, or control another person in a current or former dating relationship. It does not discriminate. Dating violence can occur in all relationships, including those that are heterosexual, same-sex, or gender nonbinary. The relationship may be casual, serious, short-term, or long-term, and it does not have to be sexual in nature. A person of any age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion can be a perpetrator or victim of dating violence. Dating violence affects people of all education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Dating violence is prevalent, including in teen relationships. According to Love is , a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly 1.5 million high school students are victims of dating violence each year. Almost one in three girls in the United States is a victim. The highest rate of dating violence occurs in females between the ages of 16 and 24, at almost triple the national average.

Experiencing dating violence in adolescence increases the risk of substance use, further violence, re-victimization in adulthood, eating disorders, symptoms of depression or anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. Sadly though, only one in three teens experiencing dating violence tells anyone about the abuse.

Note: Throughout this toolkit, the word “victim” is used. Some people prefer the word “target,” “survivor,” or “person who has experienced…”. The choice to use “victim” in this toolkit is based on the knowledge that most people are familiar with that term, and it is used in many resources and tools on this topic. Information and examples used in this toolkit are in the context of teen dating violence and may not be applicable in other contexts.