Coordinated Community Response: Raising Awareness of Teen Dating Violence

Many people think of February as a month dedicated to showing special people how much they’re loved. But it’s also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: a chance to promote awareness of and education about teen dating violence and keep those efforts going all year long.

Dating violence can be carried out through unhealthy in-person behaviors such as name-calling, physical abuse or being pressured into sexual activities. Unhealthy electronic behaviors can involve harassment and other inappropriate acts, such as repeated texting or posting of sexual pictures of a partner online without consent. 

Teens sometimes think that such unhealthy behaviors are a “normal” part of a relationship, but they are abusive and can escalate. They can start at a young age and last a lifetime. Unfortunately, many teens do not report these behaviors to their family or friends because they fear being judged or not taken seriously. 

Sometimes adults forget that they were once teens and how much teens are going through. Take the time to really listen (rather than lecture), understand, and break the cycle of poor communication by starting to have some uncomfortable conversations about relationships with the teens in your life. 

In the U.S., 1.5 million high school boys and girls have said they’ve been intentionally hit or physically harmed during the last year by someone they’re romantically involved with, but according to research, two out of three teens in an abusive relationship have never told anyone about it. Feeling comfortable approaching an adult is obviously crucial in improving this problem. 

One out of five teens in Wisconsin experiences dating violence. Some warning signs are sudden changes in appearance, diet or sleeping habits; failing grades or dropping out of school activities; sudden changes in mood or personality; avoiding friends and family; becoming secretive or withdrawn; apologizing or making excuses for the dating partner; constantly checking a cell phone or email, responding immediately when contacted by a dating partner, and getting upset when unable to respond to a dating partner; and unexplained bruises, scratches or marks. 

Learn about the qualities of healthy and unhealthy relationships so you can help a teen spot unhealthy or abusive behaviors in her or his relationship. If you still feel unsure about how to help, contact your local domestic-violence agency for guidance.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.