Domestic Abuse

Teen Dating Violence

What Is Dating Violence?

Dating or domestic abuse occurs when one person in a relationship uses different types of abusive behavior to gain power and control over their partner.

Dating or domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that can include emotional /mental / verbal, physical, sexual, financial and social abuse.

Teens and adults experience abuse in their relationships at the exact same rate. Dating abuse can happen to anyone, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, income level, educational and/or national background.

It is important for victims/survivors of abuse to find local resources like Caring Unlimited and to have trusted friends or family members who can keep their confidentiality and give them nonjudgmental support.

When a victim of abuse is thinking about leaving their abusive relationship, it is best to ask for help.

Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous, so if you or anyone you know is being abused, please contact a local domestic violence agency to help plan for safety.

Controlling Behaviors may include: not letting you hang out with your friends; calling you frequently to find out where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing; telling you what to wear; having to be with you all the time.

Verbal and Emotional Abuse may include: calling you names, jealousy, cutting you down, threatening to hurt you, someone in your family, or themselves if you don’t do what they want.

Physical Abuse may include: shoving, punching, slapping, pinching, hitting, kicking, hair pulling, strangling.

Sexual Abuse may include: unwanted touching and kissing, forcing you to have sex, not letting you use birth control, forcing you to do other sexual things.

The Teen Power and Control Wheel illustrates tactics commonly used by abusers in dating violence relationships.

Are you dating someone who…

  • Calls you names, makes you feel stupid, and/or tells you that you can’t do anything right?
  • Is jealous and possessive, wants to pick your friends, checks up on you and/or accuses you of cheating?
  • Tries to control you by being very bossy, giving orders, making all the decisions, not taking your opinions seriously, and/or telling you where to go and who you can and can’t talk to?
  • Tells you that no one else will ever go out with you and/or that you would be nothing without him/her?
  • Tries to cut you off from your friends?
  • Uses guilt trips (“If you really loved me, you would…”)?
  • Threatens you and/or makes you feel afraid?
  • Blames you for the abuse?
  • Has ever shoved, grabbed, hit, pinched, held you down, kicked or strangled you?
  • Threatens to hurt you and/or him/herself (“If you leave me, I’ll…”)?
  • Is really nice sometimes and really mean at other times (almost like they have two different personalities)?
  • Makes promises to change and/or says they will never hurt you again, and then it happens again?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, this is an abusive relationship. Keep reading.

You are not alone...

Anyone can be a victim of dating violence. Both young women and young men are victims, but women and men abuse their partners in different ways. Women are more likely to yell, threaten to hurt themselves, pinch, slap, scratch, or kick. Men injure women more and are more likely to punch their partner and force them to participate in unwanted sexual activity. Some teen victims experience violence occasionally while others are abused more often, sometimes daily.

  • One in three high schools students will experience some form of dating abuse before leaving high school.¹
  • One in three teenagers report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner.²
  • 38% of date rape victims are young women between age 14 and 17.³
  • 70% of pregnant teenagers are abused by their partners.³
  • 20% of teenage girls who has been in a relationship said a boyfriend has threatened violence or self harm when presented with a breakup.²
  • Dating abuse occurs at the same rate in homosexual relationships as it does in heterosexual relationships.
  • Girls ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence.¹
  • 85% of reported domestic/dating violence is male violence against women.¹
  • 33% of women killed in this country are killed by their current or former boyfriend or husband.5
  • 50% of all Maine’s homicides are a result of domestic/dating violence.5


  1. USDOJ Bureau of Jusice Crime Statistics,
  2. Liz Claiborne Inc Teen Dating Abuse Study, February 2005
  3. National Sexual Violence Resource Center
  4. National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Annual Report on LGBT Domestic Violence (1998)
  5. Maine Department of Public Safety, Public Information Office

You deserve a healthy relationship!

You have the right:

  • To be treated with respect always
  • To your own body, thoughts, opinions, and property
  • To choose and keep your own friends
  • To change your mind—at any time
  • To not be abused—physically, emotionally or sexually
  • To leave a relationship
  • To say no
  • To be treated as an equal
  • To disagree with your partner
  • To live without fear of threats and intimidation from your partner

The Equality Wheel below illustrates characteristics of a healthy dating relationship.

What to do if your partner is abusive and you want out...

  • Tell a friend, parent, teacher, counselor or someone else you trust and who can help.
  • Call a domestic violence hotline like Caring Unlimited’s 24 Hour Hotline to get support and information about what you can do. You can call without giving your name.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Plan for your safety—whether you are still in the relationship, are making plans to end it or have already ended it.
  • Do not meet the abuser alone. Do not let the abuser in your home or car when you are alone. Avoid being alone at school, your job, or on the way to and from places.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back.
  • Give yourself some space, take a break from dating for awhile.

How can I help and what can I say if someone I care about is being abused in a dating relationship?

Educate yourself! One of the best ways to help create change is to become informed about dating abuse.

If you are worried about someone who is being abused in their relationship, here are a few dos and don’ts:


  • Tell them you want to help, and then ask what you can.
  • Believe them.
  • Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation.
  • Help them explore their options:
  • How can they stay safe?
  • Can they call a hotline?
  • Can they talk with parents or a trusted adult (teacher, guidance, spiritual advisor, relative)?
  • Would it help to talk to authorities?
  • Would they like to talk with Caring Unlimited Youth Advocates (490-3227 x103)?
  • Continue support if they stay in the relationship. Keep up the support if they leave and go back.
  • Encourage them to call Caring Unlimited 1-800-239-7298 or the National Teen Dating Violence hotline 1 (866) 331-9474
  • Get support for yourself by talking to someone you can trust or by calling the hotline


  • Try to rescue them, they are the experts of their life, not you.
  • Criticize their partner, you don’t want them taking energy to defend them.
  • Give advice. Instead, give information and resources, and explore options.
  • Judge the choices that they’re making.
  • Blame them for anything that someone else did to them.
  • Tell them what to do, or say “I told you so”.

If you know someone who is choosing to abuse their partner here are a few things you can do:

  • Ask them, “Why do you think its okay to talk about your boy/girl-friend like that?”
  • Confront the language they are using. If they are calling their partner names, or disrespecting them, let them know that you don’t think that is okay.
  • Let them know—if you feel safe doing so—that you think some of the choices they are making are unhealthy and they could talk to someone about it.
  • Share your opinions on what healthy behavior looks like, for example, that jealousy and possessiveness are not signs of love.
  • Get support from a trusted adult or friend who shares your views on this behavior.

How to Help a Friend

Most teens talk to other teens about their problems. If a friend tells you things that sound like his or her relationship is abusive, here are some suggestions on ways you can help.

  • Don’t ignore signs of abuse; talk to your friend.
  • Express your concerns; tell your friend you’re worried.
  • Support, don’t judge.
  • Point out your friend’s strengths—many people in abusive relationships no longer believe in their own abilities and gifts.
  • Encourage your friend to confide in a trusted adult. Offer to go with your friend for professional help.
  • Never put yourself in a dangerous situation with the victim’s partner. Don’t try to mediate or otherwise get involved directly!
  • Call 911 if you witness an assault. Tell a trusted adult—school principal, teacher, parent, physician, guidance counselor if you suspect abuse but don’t witness it directly.