San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

9621 Ridgehaven Court • San Diego, CA 92123

Teen Relationship Violence

Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Dating violence often starts with teasing and name calling. These behaviors are often thought to be a “normal” part of a relationship. But these behaviors can set the stage for more serious violence like physical assault and rape.

Teen relationship violence is defined as the physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship, as well as stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and may occur between a current or former dating partner.

Adolescents and adults are often unaware that teens experience dating violence. In a nationwide survey, 9.4 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey).

Relationship Questionnaire for Teens

Does the person you date:

  • Constantly grab, pinch, shove, trip, bite, kick or hit you?
  • Blow off your feelings?
  • Withhold affection and appreciation to punish you?
  • Shout at you or call you names?
  • Continually criticize you or put down your accomplishments and goals?
  • Make your decisions for you?
  • Embarrass you in front of others?
  • Blame you for his/her moods or abusiveness?
  • Drive recklessly when you are together?
  • Isolate you from your friends and family?
  • Call you constantly to check up on you?
  • Force you to stay after a fight or abandon you?

What are the consequences of teen relationship violence?

Teen dating violence

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by their relationship experiences. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can cause short term and long term negative effects, or consequences to the developing teen. Victims of teen relationship violence are more likely to do poorly in school, and report binge drinking, suicide attempts, and physical fighting. Victims may also carry the patterns of violence into future relationships.

Why Does Relationship Violence Happen?

Communicating with your partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect are a few ways to keep relationships healthy and non-violent. Teens receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults in their lives, and the media. All too often these examples suggest violence in a relationship is okay. Violence is never acceptable. But there are reasons why it happens.

Violence is related to certain risk factors. Risks of having unhealthy relationships increase for teens who:

  • Believe it's okay to use threats or violence to get their way or to express frustration or anger.
  • Use alcohol or drugs.
  • Can’t manage anger or frustration.
  • Hang out with violent peers.
  • Have multiple sexual partners.
  • Have a friend involved in dating violence.
  • Are depressed or anxious.
  • Have learning difficulties and other problems at school.
  • Don’t have parental supervision and support.
  • Witness violence at home or in the community.
  • Have a history of aggressive behavior or bullying.

Relationship violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

Resources for Victims of Teen Relationship Violence

Teen dating violence

Victims of teen relationship violence often keep the abuse a secret. They should be encouraged to reach out to trusted adults like parents, teachers, school counselors, youth advisors, or health care providers. They can also seek confidential counsel and advice from professionally trained adults and peers.

Resources for teens involved in abusive relationships include the following:

San Diego Services:

National Services:

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Poster Campaigns:

Public Service Announcements:

Handling Conflicts

Parents are Models