According to SafeYouth.org, studies show that as many as
96% of American teenagers say that they have been emotionally
and/or psychologically abused by a dating partner.
In other words, almost ALL teens report that they have been
emotionally or psychologically mistreated, harmed, stalked,
manipulated, or pressured in some way by a dating partner
who claimed to love them and to have their best interest at
Sexual and Physical Abuse
Bear in mind that the umbrella term "sexual abuse"
certainly includes rape, but it also includes unwanted sexual
activity of any kind. This means that if a boy kisses, touches,
or does anything sexual to a girl who has not clearly consented
to that activity, he has sexually assaulted her.
In addition, if a girl has consumed alcohol or drugs and
is not in any condition to give her consent, but the boy still
proceeds to engage in any type of sexual activity with her,
this also constitutes sexual abuse.
Physical abuse in the context of dating relationships includes
punching, biting, slapping, stabbing, and any other method
that one person can use to physically harm another with or
without the aid of a weapon.
Once again, according to SafeYouth.org, "One recent
national survey found that 1 in 11 high-school students said
they had been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose
by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year. 1 in 11
students also reported that they had been forced to have sexual
intercourse when they did not want to."
Emotional and Psychological Abuse
When experts refer to teen dating abuse, they are not only
talking about the most clear-cut examples of abuse, such as
physical or sexual assault. They are also talking about more
subtle-and, as it turns out, much more common-forms of psychological
and/or emotional abuse, such as stalking, cyber-stalking,
insulting, cursing at, yelling at, manipulating, controlling,
humiliating, or making verbal threats of violence.
When boyfriends try to whittle away at their girlfriends'
self-esteem by making cruel or manipulative remarks, or when
they try to limit or control their girlfriends' activities,
or when they try to dictate what their girlfriends can and
cannot wear, which people their girlfriends can talk to-and
which ones they can't- these are all additional forms of emotional
Know the Facts
It's important to realize that emotionally abusive partners
often know exactly what they are doing, and exactly which
buttons to push. They tend to seek out vulnerable, insecure
individuals as dating partners, and at the beginning of their
relationships they may even treat their vulnerable partners
If your normally cheerful teenage girl suddenly becomes
quiet and depressed, consider asking about her dating
Often it is only later in their relationships that they start
in with the mind games, the emotional manipulation, the cruelty,
the insults, and all the other classic emotionally abusive
There are many different kinds of emotional abuse, and emotional
abuse can take place within the context of all sorts of dating
relationships, ranging from casual dating situations to very
serious, monogamous, long-term relationships.
According to LoveIsNotAbuse.com, in March of 2006, Liz Claiborne,
Inc. partnered with a research organization called Teenage
Research, Unlimited (TRU) to study the extent of teen dating
violence in today's world.
The findings of this study (which covered all forms of abuse,
including emotional abuse), were alarming to say the least.
For instance, when it comes to one specific, ultra-controlling
form of emotional abuse, the study results indicated that:
"1 in 4 teens who have been in a serious relationship
say their boyfriend or girlfriend has tried to prevent them
from spending time with friends or family; the same number
have been pressured to only spend time with their partner."
On a related note, extreme jealousy and possessiveness are
very bad signs in a dating relationship.
For any teenage girls reading this article, if you have a
boyfriend who acts extremely jealous if you so much as talk
to another boy, you may be tempted to feel flattered by his
Extremely jealous boyfriends also tend to be very controlling
and emotionally abusive. They want you all to themselves and
they may even start trying to force you to cut back on the
time you spend with friends and family members. They say they
act this way because they "love you so much," when
in fact the real reason they behave this way is to try to
control your every move. They want you completely under their
thumb. They may have deluded themselves into thinking that
they love you, but what they are doing to you is not loving
Why is Emotional Abuse in Teen Relationships So Common,
And What Can Be Done About It?
Sometimes, teenage boys or girls who witness their parents
abusing and/or being abused by one another end up becoming
perpetrators or victims of abuse in their own dating relationships,
because they have come to believe that abusive behavior in
intimate relationships is actually normal and acceptable.
Just like you, your teenagers deserve to be treated
with the utmost love and respect by their dating partners.
We also live in a society that does not take teen dating
abuse as seriously as it should. It is an ugly topic, and
generally speaking, people do not like to spend a lot of time
thinking about such troubling subjects.
Unfortunately, the more society tries to brush topics like
teen dating abuse under the rug, the more validated abusers
feel in behaving the way that they do. In other words, if
no one is telling them to stop, and they are continuing to
get away with their negative behavior, then what on earth
would possibly motivate them to stop?
If you are a teenager who is currently being abused sexually,
physically, psychologically, and/or emotionally, or if you
aren't totally sure, but you think you may be in an abusive
relationship, and if you have a trusted adult in your life,
such as a parent, teacher, guidance counselor, mentor, or
therapist, make it a point to talk to that person about what
you are experiencing in your relationship.
If you don't feel that there is an adult you can safely open
up to about what's going on in your relationship, then you
may want to call the National Domestic
Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE.
Similarly, if you are the parent of a teenager, and you suspect
that your child may be being abused by her partner, emotionally
or otherwise, then you need to open
up the lines of communication immediately, and be prepared
not only to ask some difficult questions, but to listen to
some answers that may be very hard (but incredibly important)
for you to hear. Then you need to be prepared to take every
step necessary to ensure your child's safety and well-being.
For some truly excellent step-by-step tips about how to discuss
this difficult topic with your teenager, and specific ways
to keep her safe, please
read this extremely helpful article about what parents need
to know about teen dating abuse.
On a slightly different but equally important note, if you
are the parent of a teenage boy who you fear may be abusing
his girlfriend emotionally or otherwise, please consult this
useful checklist about what parents can do to prevent youth
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Do Parents Need To Know About Teen Dating Violence?
Is Not Abuse