Voices from the Field

Voices from the Field is a place for administrators, teachers, school support staff, community, and family members to learn what experts -- researchers, practitioners, family -- from across the country think by reading a short post that includes the latest promising practices on a range of school climate topics, along with references and related resources.

How proactive is your institution or school in addressing teen dating violence?

Defining Teen Dating Violence

Teen dating violence is defined as violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim. The existence of such a relationship is determined based on the length and type of relationship, along with the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.[1]

Signs of Teen Dating Violence 

Some signs may be obvious:[2]

  • One student in the relationship always seems to be controlling the other, either physically, emotionally, or verbally.
  • One student in the relationship has unexplained bruises.
  • One student in the relationship always defers to the other.

But look beyond the obvious toward the following school-focused behaviors:

  • A drop in attendance.
  • A drop in grades.
  • Requests for schedule changes.

And consider whether the student has displayed the following:

  • Isolation from former friends.
  • Loss of interest in activities.
  • Loss of self-confidence.
  • Sudden weight change.

None of these signs by themselves may indicate an abusive relationship (and the signs may be symptoms of other concerns as well), so look at them as a whole.

Impact of Teen Dating Violence

It is estimated that 1 in 10 teens will be intentionally hurt by someone they are dating this year. [3] This type of abuse affects individuals regardless of age and gender, though young women are disproportionately affected by both dating violence and sexual assault. The Department of Justice reports that 1 in 5 young women will be a victim of sexual assault while they are in college. [4]

Victims of dating violence may also suffer a variety of long-term effects: [5]

  • Teens who are victims are more likely to be depressed and do poorly in school.
  • They may engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using drugs and alcohol, and are more likely to have eating disorders.
  • Some teens even think about or attempt suicide.
  • Teens who are victims in high school are at higher risk for victimization in college.

Addressing Teen Dating Violence

President Barack Obama has issued a proclamation establishing February 2013 as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. [6] In addition to encouraging all Americans to support and empower young people to develop healthy relationships, the President highlights Vice President Biden’s 1is2Many initiative, which uses technology and outreach to get the message out and to help reduce dating violence and sexual assault among teens and young adults. [7]

The White House also has launched a Campus Sexual Violence Initiative, issuing a Dear Colleague letter that makes it very clear that rape and sexual assault fall within the rubric of sexual harassment under Title IX. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/Documents/1.4.17.VAW%20Event.Guide%20for%20College%20Presidents.PDF

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