What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen Dating Violence is a pattern of abuse used by one person in a current or past dating relationship to exert power and control over another when one or both of the partners is a teenager. The nature of abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual.

Abuse can include:

  • Coercion
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Social Sabotage
  • Stalking
  • Threats and/or Acts of physical or sexual abuse
  • Use of electronic devices such as cell phones and computers to abuse, harass, or stalk someone

In Teen Dating Violence relationships, there are Three Important Roles:

  • The Abuser – A person who physically, sexually, verbally or emotionally hurts a dating partner.
  • The Victim – A person who is hurt physically, sexually, verbally or emotionally by a dating partner.
  • The Bystander – A person who is aware that someone is being abused in a dating relationship. The bystander may become aware of the abuse through witnessing it directly or through second-hand information.

What Can You Do About Teen Dating Violence?

If you observe that someone you know may be a victim of Teen Dating Violence, DO:


  • Listen to what the person is saying with an open mind.
  • Find out what the person would like to do about the relationship and support them regardless of what you would do in a similar situation.
  • Understand that the person may be confused about their feelings and about what to do. They may change their mind, maybe even a few times.
  • Watch your body language and respect the person’s right to privacy and personal space.
  • Let them know that you will be there for them if they ever need you.
  • Help the person become informed of available resources.
  • Decide how you should proceed with informing any other persons, especially if you feel the person’s safety may be in danger.

Be careful… DO NOT:

  • Judge the person.
  • Give advice. Let the person make their own decisions, while discussing all of the choices available to them.
  • Ask unnecessary questions; if a victim is not ready to talk about everything yet they may shut down if they feel pressured.
  • Overreact.
  • Confront the person’s abusive partner about the abuse – this could put you and the person you are concerned about at risk.

Schools should…

  • Set clear policies about reporting dating abuse or violence of any kind, whether it occurs on campus or not, as required in Florida Statute 1006.148.
  • Actively create a school environment where respect, responsibility and safety are promoted.
  • Take seriously and proactively enforce protection orders and other court orders due to dating abuse.
  • Train staff to recognize signs of dating abuse and intervene appropriately – Refuge House is happy to assist in this process.
  • Teach an evidenced-based and effective curriculum about dating abuse.
  • Host school-wide dating abuse campaigns involving students that also include them in the responsibility of planning and organizing the event.
  • Educate parents about the issue.
  • Students may not feel comfortable asking for resources directly so identify a safe place for students to access information on local community resources.