LiveSmart: Teens in Unhealthy Relationships – Know the Warning Signs

[This article was written by Kelly VanAppledorn, outreach specialist with St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services.]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate that 1 in 11 female and 1 in 14 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year. Furthermore, 1 in 8 female and 1 in 26 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month; a great time to highlight and discuss the issue of dating violence among teens. It is important to remember that dating violence, physical or sexual, can happen to any teen in a romantic or sexual relationship. Having conversations early on about the possibility for these things to occur can help a teen you care about make informed choices should they be faced with victimization.

Unhealthy or abusive relationships can have severe consequences on a developing teen, with both short- and long-term negative effects. The CDC notes youth who experience dating violence are more likely to experience:

  • Symptoms of depression and/or anxiety
  • Engagement in unhealthy behaviors or habits such as substance use
  • Antisocial behaviors
  • Thoughts about suicide

Additionally, youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for other types of victimization during college and early adulthood. 26 percent of women and 15 percent of men who were victims of sexual or physical violence in their lifetime reported they first experienced these or other forms of violence before the age of 18.

The key is for adults to start the discussion with teens before they start dating, to establish the importance of developing healthy, respectful relationships. Teens need to know dating violence is not just physical – persistent teasing, name calling, and stalking in person or digitally are all unhealthy, dangerous behaviors.

Modeling positive, supportive relationships is critical. Seeing their peers and loved ones in healthy relationships helps teens to understand what they should expect from their own relationships, both romantic and otherwise.

St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services offers a variety of services aimed at supporting survivors of violent crime, including victims of intimate partner violence. Our Support and Advocacy program offers free, short-term counseling, virtual support groups, trauma therapy, medical and legal advocacy/accompaniment, and other specialized programs for survivors.

Our Prevention Education and Community Engagement team provides educational programming tailored to schools, colleges, sports teams, parent groups, senior groups, allied health professionals, and law enforcement agencies. And our Forensic Examiner Program provides medical care and forensic examination 24-hours a day at all St. Peter’s Emergency Departments to survivors of domestic violence, including dating violence.

Most importantly, St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services is meeting people where they are at. The goal of our person-centered approach is to empower each survivor to make their own choices around what happens post-victimization.

For more information about our supportive services for survivors, our 24-Hour Hotline is available at (518) 271-3257. For information on free prevention programming, email

Additional resources:

One Love Foundation:

Love is Respect:

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