Guiding youth to lead healthy and safe lives.

Broken hearts and bruises

Kids First on Fox: How to spot the signs of teen dating violence


Valentine’s Day is a week away and some of us are thinking of sweet hearts, flowers, candy and love. February is also teen dating violence awareness month. Sadly, at least one in ten Indiana teens are experiencing broken hearts and bruises in violent relationships. Parents need to know how to support healthy teen dating relationships and the warning signs of abuse.

  • One in three adolescents is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
  • One in 10 high school students has been hit, slapped or physically hurt in a dating relationship.
  • In Indiana, 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 10 boys was sexually assaulted by the age of 18 (not all of these assaults are in dating relationships).
  • Violent dating behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
  • Nearly half of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

Parents need to know that only 1/3 of teens in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. Although 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, nearly 60% of parents could not identify all the signs of abuse.

Intimate Partner Violence includes “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive tactics) by a current or former partner.

Teen dating violence is associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety, suicidal ideation, engagement in delinquency and antisocial behavior, poor academic performance, and abusing alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

  • Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • Half of youth who have been victims of dating violence and rape will attempt suicide.
  • Nearly one in five Indiana high school teens have planned their suicide and 10% have attempted suicide. (Indiana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015)

Teen Dating can be positive and important for adolescents’ growth and development.

  • Learning communication skills, establishing boundaries, building trust and respect and sharing positive healthy experiences enables teens to prepare for healthy adult intimate relationships. All teens who date will disagree with their partner at times and will likely break up as part of the learning and growing process. Navigating conflict in a responsible, respectful manner is important to experience and learn during the teen years. However, there is a difference between normal relationship strife and dating abuse. Teen dating is an important rite of passage for American youth. Parents can provide valuable guidance and support to their teen on healthy dating relationships.

Research has identified six protective factors that reduce the risk of teens engaging in unhealthy relationships. Teens are at less risk for unhealthy relationships if they have high empathy, higher grade-point-averages, higher verbal IQs, attachment to their schools, positive maternal relationships and an understanding that committing dating violence is wrong. Promoting healthy teen dating behaviors through programs that build conflict resolution skills, foster intimacy, teach prosocial behaviors, teach self-control, and build confidence and empathy is very effective. Social Health Association of Indiana provides these types of educational programs for youth on how to have healthy peer and teen dating relationships.

Warning Signs of Abusive Teens. Is your teen an abuser?

If your teen exemplifies these behaviors, they may be abusive to others. If so, seek professional mental health treatment for your teen to ensure the violence ends and does not continue through adulthood. Do not wish the problem away. Work with your teen to get the help needed, immediately.

  • Checking partner’s cell phones or email without permission
  • Constantly putting their partner down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity towards their partner
  • Explosive temper or mood swings
  • Isolating a partner from family or friends
  • Making false accusations about partner
  • Physically hurting a partner in any way
  • Possessiveness and constant tracking of partner’s activity
  • Telling partner what to do and controlling decisions
  • Embarrassing partner in front of others or in social media
  • Pressuring or forcing partner to have sex.
  • Characteristics of Healthy Dating Relationships

Healthy =

  • Mutual respect
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Compromise
  • Individuality
  • Good communication
  • Anger control
  • Fighting fair
  • Problem solving
  • Understanding
  • Self-confidence
  • Being a role model

Unhealthy =

  • Control
  • Hostility
  • Dishonesty
  • Disrespect
  • Dependence
  • Intimidation
  • Possessiveness
  • Verbal abuse
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence

It is best to start talking about healthy relationships before your child starts dating. Start conversations about what to look for in a partner. For example, you ask your child:

  • How do you want to be treated? How do you want to feel about yourself when you are with that person?

Parents should encourage healthy, happy and safe teen dating relationships while also teaching awareness about dating violence and other relationship issues like consent, breaking up, and personal values.

Resources for Parents & Teens:

Love Is Respect provides teens and parents access to help, advice and information on how to promote healthy teen dating relationships and prevent or stop teen dating violence: There is a texting line, chat feature, and 24-hour phone hotline for any relationship related questions. Text loveis to 22522; call 866-331-9474; or go to You can even take a quiz to assess relationships at

STARS for Children of Marion County, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Symposium free for any parents and teens will be on Saturday, February 18th 11 am – 3 pm (location: Child Care Answers, 1776 N. Meridian St., Indpls. 46202). Lunch is provided. RSVP by clicking here.

Help us guide Indiana youth to lead healthy and safe lives.