Hidden Dangers of Teen Dating Violence

Teen dating violence is not a phrase you hear too often growing up, if you hear it at all. Safe sex is discussed in some way or another but for all the importance that sex is given while raising our children rarely are healthy relationships and boundaries included in this discussion. In fact, it is rare that teenage or young relationships are ever given any serious consideration. They are expected to be fleeting, illogical and, if you get one out of out of a book or movie, volatile with emotion. It is this expected volatile aspect, however, that can lead to greater acceptance of dangerous and unhealthy relationships. Signs of extreme jealousy, keeping tabs on the other person, wanting to spend all their time with them and even stalking have been twisted in our current cultural climate to prove love, devotion and healthy dedication. This volatile aspect is also another way to prove that the relationship is fleeting and therefore these behaviors are not permanent and can be ignored.

This month of February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The first week of February also includes “It’s Time to Talk Day” on February 4th where parents are encouraged to talk to their kids about healthy relationships and what constitutes an unhealthy relationship. These conversations are necessary and important especially when one looks at statistics that “one in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.”1and “approximately 70% of college students say they have been sexually coerced.”

Why focus on youth? Why not include youth in the overall discussion of intimate partner violence (IPV)? Research shows that “violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18,” “girls between the ages of 16-24 experience the highest rate of IPV- almost triple the national average,” and “about 72% of eighth and ninth grader consider themselves to be dating.” Considering the high rates of IPV committed against young women, it also becomes important to look at how the socialization of young women is conducted in our society. They are taught to aspire to marriage and to find husbands, and they are taught that our value as people can be built or destroyed by our bodies alone. They are not taught how to say no. In fact, through media and our peers, it becomes apparent from early on that assertiveness in women is undesirable and will actually hinder you in life. It really doesn't seem so surprising that these events remain under-reported and many women not only end up in these situations but see them as inevitable or a part of life.

If you are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship or someone you know is, please do not hesitate to reach out to local resources or the 24/7 national hotline


Veronika Walker is a Women's and Gender Studies major at the University of South Carolina. She volunteers with Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, has interned at SC Equalityand is currently a full-time youth activist with the South Carolina Contraceptive Access Campaign. She loves to read and hang out with her one-year-old Rottweiler named Baloo.