Teen Dating Abuse

The landscape of young people’s relationships is ever evolving, with local customs, language and technology all influencing their experiences.  The terms they use may differ from previous generations, but one reality has not changed: Teenagers and pre-teens continue to engage in romantic and/or sexual relationships with one another.

Unfortunately, as young people develop the skills needed for being in relationships, some begin using behaviors that are unhealthy and abusive:

  • More than half of America’s teenagers know friends who have experienced some sort of dating abuse, while one in four 11-14 year olds say that physical dating violence is a serious concern for their age group8.
  • In Maine, 8.3% of Maine high schoolers report that in the preceding year, someone they were dating or going out with physically hurt them on purpose at least once. The percentage was higher for gay/lesbian students (19.2%) and bisexual students (18.3%) than for heterosexual students (6.7%)9.
  • Meanwhile, 81% of parents believe teen dating abuse is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue10.

Too often, we expect young people to intuitively know how to be in relationships. We are not born with that knowledge. Instead, we learn it – from our homes, our peers, the lessons at school, and what we see in the media.

It is vital that we do not leave young people to sort through the conflicting messages alone. Instead, we need to help them interpret what they see around them, and support them in learning and choosing healthy and respectful relationship behaviors.  With young people, there is a huge opportunity to shift the elements of our culture that support and condone abuse and violence, and to create lasting social change.

That is why Prevention Educators with MCEDV’s member resource centers are in schools and other youth-focused settings, delivering age-appropriate content to build young people’s skills – and offering youth-focused advocacy when students need help. At the Coalition, we build our members’ capacity to work with youth, and we bring conversations about young people’s relationships to statewide tables, such as Maine Family Planning’s Annual Comprehensive Sexuality Education Conference.

Contact your local Domestic Violence Resource Center about bringing a Prevention Educator into your school or organization.

8 Glauber, Anne. Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Survey. 2008.
9 2015 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey. “High School Detailed Report.”
10 “Women’s Health,” June/July 2004, Family Violence Prevention Fund and Advocates for Youth.