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Teen Dating Violence – Recognizing the Signs 

by | Feb 5, 2024

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. In the complex landscape of teenage relationships, the issue of Teen Dating Violence (TDV) casts a concerning shadow, affecting many young individuals between high school and college. A significant amount of the community we serve falls within the demographic impacted by TDV. As advocates for mental health, NYPCC is committed to addressing this crucial topic and fostering awareness among today’s youth, prioritizing the mental health and well-being of the community.

Written by NYPCC Director of Special Projects, Scott Bloom, LCSW, this article delves into the vital aspects of recognizing the signs of TDV, emphasizing the need for awareness and understanding among today’s youth. Together, we can equip young minds with the knowledge to recognize the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships and foster respectful, positive connections.

Teen Dating Violence – Recognizing the Signs

By Scott Bloom, LCSW; Director of Special Projects

An alarming number of young people will experience relationship abuse or teen dating violence (TDV) in some form between their high school and college years (4). The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, done nationally every other year by the Center for Disease Control (1), includes several measures of experiences of violence, including feeling unsafe at school, bullying, forced sex, and sexual violence by anyone. In 2021, almost 20% of female students experienced sexual violence by anyone during the past year and 14% had been physically forced to have sex. (1). CDC indicates that sexual violence is directly related to HIV and STD risk, but also to the experience of trauma, which can be linked to substance use, mental health problems, and suicide risk. (2). Findings from the 2021 YRBS survey indicated that 8.5% of students who had dated in the past year experienced physical TDV and 9.7% experienced sexual TDV. Overall, 13.6% of students experienced any TDV (physical, sexual, or both), and 3.6% experienced both types of TDV (1).

Respect for both oneself and one’s partner is a key characteristic of healthy relationships. In contrast, in unhealthy relationships, one partner tries to exert control and power over the other physically, sexually, and/or emotionally (3). Unfortunately, a large majority of youth don’t know how to identify abuse or how to handle it. It’s important for youth to be able to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships before they escalate.

Unhealthy relationships are marked by a number of characteristics such as being disrespected and controlled (3). You know you’re in an unhealthy relationship if any of the following occurs: One dating partner tries to control aspects of the other’s life by making the other partner fearful or timid and keeps them away from friends and family; lies, steals, or keeps information from the other; makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. He or she is unreasonably jealous, and/or tries to isolate the other partner from his or her friends and family. Other characteristics of unhealthy relationships include intimidation, hostility, disrespect, dependence, or physical violence – using force to get his or her own way.

Healthy relationships start with maintaining open lines of communication, listening to each other, and developing a sense of mutual respect for each person’s values and individuality while maintaining boundaries. This fosters a foundation of trust to build upon, leading to a more mature relationship. Other positive attributes include honesty, compromise, problem solving, and good communication. Healthy relationships allow each of the partners to live up to their potential, pursue their own interests, and have supportive, outside friendships. Or when the couple comes together, think of them as a Venn diagram where each of the circles represents the individuals and where they overlap is the transformative space where the real partnership can take place. We need to help our youth get to that transformative space in healthy and positive ways.



  1. Clayton HB, Kilmer G, DeGue S, Estefan LF, Le VD, Suarez NA, Lyons BH, Thornton JE. Dating Violence, Sexual Violence, and Bullying Victimization Among High School Students -Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2021. MMWR Suppl. 2023 Apr 28;72(1):66-74. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.su7201a8. PMID: 37104527; PMCID: PMC10156153.