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Teen Dating Violence

In the United States, about 1 out of 3 teens in a dating relationship will experience some type of abuse before graduation. Emotional abuse is the most common type of abusive behavior that teens report experiencing from their dating partner. However, much like domestic violence in general, there are multiple types of abuse, including physical, sexual, verbal, isolation, financial, etc.…

Abusive relationships tend to form a cyclical dynamic with 3 distinct phases. 

  1. The Tension Building Phase. 

Typically, during this time the victim can feel tensions in their relationship rising. Small arguments start to grow larger or simple issues become large problems in the eyes of the abuser. Many victims report having a “gut feeling” that something bad was going to happen or that they felt like they were “walking on eggshells” and trying harder to avoid confrontations. 

  1. The Abusive Incident

This could be a physical, sexual, or verbal/emotional incident. Some describe it as the breaking point of the previously built up tension. 

  1. The Honeymoon Phase

In most cases, the abuser will apologize or try to diminish or excuse their behavior to the victim. They often buy them gifts and make it a point to promise that it will never happen again. The relationship during the honeymoon stage is often happy and content and can last for a long period of time before the tension starts to build again. 

Signs of emotional abuse in teen dating relationships include:

  • Teens withdrawn from and uninterested in ordinary activities
  • Unexpected and unexplained mood swings
  • Demonstrated fear of upsetting their partner
  • Reluctance to engage in activities without their partner, for fear of retribution
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Self-harming and/or suicidal behaviors

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