Adolescence is a time when teens are beginning to learn how to build relationships with friends, family and dating partners. What they learn and experience during this time may determine how they perceive relationships for the rest of their lives. As an adult, being involved in these experiences with a teen is extremely important and can have a positive impact on a negative situation. Parents, teachers, counselors, coaches and young adults can help guide teens to recognize what a healthy and respectful relationship requires and help prevent an abusive relationship from forming. Teens ages 12-14 are experiencing dating for the first time and are not aware of the different types of abuse they may be exposed to. It is important for teens to know that abuse is not only physical, but can also be emotional or verbal as well as of course, sexual abuse. Parents should take time to sit with their teens and openly communicate the importance of a healthy relationship and the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. Teachers and coaches should always be alert to signs of abusive relationships in the teens they are involved with.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in four teens reports verbal, physical, emotional or sexual violence each year. Knowing the warning signs can help prevent your teen from becoming a victim or abuser in a relationship. The following are some signs a teen may be a victim or is at risk of being a victim of an abusive relationship:

  1. Suspicious bruises, scratches or other injuries
  2. Failing grades
  3. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable
  4. Alcohol or drug use
  5. Excuses made for their dating partner’s behavior
  6. Fearfulness around their dating partner or when his or her name is mentioned
  7. Avoidance of friends and social events

The following are some signs a teen may be a perpetrator or is at risk of becoming a perpetrator of violence:

  1. Threatens to hurt others in any way
  2. Insults or ignores a dating partner in public or private
  3. Constantly calls or texts to check up on a dating partner
  4. Damages or destroys a dating partner’s personal belongings
  5. Attempts to control a dating partner’s friends, their activities or even the clothes they wear
  6. Exhibits jealous and possessive behavior
  7. Demands to know where their dating partner is all the time

8. Making a dating partner feel guilty or shameful with statements such as : “If you really loved me, you would….”

  1. Blames the dating partner for his or her feelings and actions with statements such as” “you asked for it” or “You made me mad”

If you suspect or know a teenager that is involved in dating abuse, speak openly with them to get as much information as possible. If your teen refuses to talk about the issue, give them options of other resources they can use on their own, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800 799-SAFE) or websites such as If physical violence has occurred, call the Orange County Sheriff’s Dispatch phone number (949 770.6011) or if it is an emergency call 9-1-1. Also, seek expert help such as a hotline, counselor or youth group if you suspect your teen may be the perpetrator of violence.