LiveSmart: Teen Dating – Know the Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

[This story was written by Carissa Marino, a student intern with St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services.]

Teen dating violence affects millions of young individuals, which can include physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking.

Data collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows about 1 in 12 U.S. high school students experience physical and/or sexual dating violence. 1 in 3 young people will be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship in their lives, and 33% of adolescents in America experience sexual, physical, emotion, or verbal abuse perpetrated by their romantic partner.

Of the individuals that have been in abusive relationships, only about 20 percent make a report to the police. There are many reasons why people hesitate to report abuse to an outsider. Some of these reasons include guilt, shame, self-blame, fear no one will believe them, fear of retaliation, and not identifying themselves as a victim of abuse.

Teens are very vulnerable at this stage of their life, and there are many ways in which an abusive partner may take advantage of this and apply coercive and harmful behaviors towards their partner. When an abusive partner uses tactics such as power and control, this can result in the other partner feeling unsafe in their own relationship. These behaviors can include blame, intimidation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, threats, domination, humiliation, and possessiveness.

Knowing the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship can be crucial for supporting someone’s safety and wellbeing:

Harmful Behaviors

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Controlling behavior
  • Quick involvement (“love bombing”)
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Isolation
  • Blaming others for their actions
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threatens violence
  • Unpredictable mood swings

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

  • Grades falling
  • Increased instances of indecision/stops giving their opinion
  • Changes in mood/personality
  • Depression
  • Isolation/insists on having more privacy
  • Physical signs of injury: cuts/bruises
  • Makes excuses for perpetrator’s behaviors
  • Begins to put themselves down

If you recognize or are experiencing any of these signs of an unhealthy relationship, St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services is here for survivors of teen dating violence and their loved ones. Our 24-hour hotline is a confidential way to contact a trained counselor for support at any time at 518-271-3257.

St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services also provides free services to individuals impacted by unhealthy or abusive relationships, such as counseling, therapy, support groups, and legal advocacy. For more information, please visit our website at

Resources for more information:

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