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Teen Dating Violence

Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. [1]

Dating violence is a reality and happens for many reasons. The primary reason for dating violence is the abuser’s need to maintain power and control over his/her partner.

Remember: Dating violence, if it happens to you, is NEVER your fault.

For help, call Harbor House’s 24-Hour Hotline at 815-932-5800 or 24-hour Chatline. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911 and request police assistance.

Harbor House offers free services for teens, adults, and dependent children who are victims of domestic or dating violence. All contacts and services are confidential. A trained, caring person will help you think through your situation.

Harbor House services include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Emergency shelter
  • Support through the court system
  • Information and referrals

The best way to prevent dating violence is to talk to kids and teens about healthy relationships, respect, consent, and boundaries.

Need help starting the conversation? Check out these resources designed for you.

Parent's Guide to Talking with Children About Relationships

Teen Dating Violence: What Parents Need to Know

Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. [2]

Here are some reasons teens avoid sharing:

  • Inexperienced with dating and dating relationships
  • Pressure from peers
  • Desire for independence from their parents
  • Holding on to “romantic” view of love, dating, relationships
  • Hope that the abuser will change

One in three girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. [3]

Learn the early warning signs of an abusive relationship. You have choices, and you can choose better relationships. You are valuable and deserve to be treated with respect.

Here are some warning signs that your date or partner may eventually become abusive.

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Controlling behavior
  • Quick closeness and personal involvement
  • Unpredictable moods and mood swings
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Believes in rigid gender roles (“all men do this,” “all women do that”), including in sexual relations
  • Blames others for problems or feelings
  • Explosive anger
  • Isolates you from friends and family
  • Uses physical force during a disagreement or argument
  • Cruelty to animals or children
  • Verbally abusive
  • Abused former partners
  • Threatens violence against you or others

Here are some “red flag” behaviors that may occur in a dating relationship. Do not tolerate any of these behaviors from a person you are dating. If any of these occur in your dating relationship, get help.

Physical abuse by a dating partner looks like this: pushing, shoving, pinching, scratching, kicking, hitting, abandoning you in a dangerous or isolated place, holding you to prevent you from leaving.

Emotional abuse by a dating partner looks like this: calling you names, insulting, criticizing, threatening, publicly humiliating, controlling behavior, isolating you from others, ignoring your feelings, behaving jealousy, destroying your possessions.

Sexual abuse by a dating partner looks like this: calling you sexually demeaning names, continuing sexual advances after you have said no, unwanted or uncomfortable touching, forced sexual intercourse, negative or critical comments about your body.

Digital abuse by a dating partner looks like this: telling you who you can or can’t be friends with on social media sites; sending you negative, insulting or even threatening messages; using social media sites to keep constant tabs on you; sending you unwanted, explicit pictures and/or demanding you send some; or stealing or insisting on being given your passwords.

Believe in yourself. Trust your own good judgment. Know that you have the right not to be hurt. Sometimes your feelings may seem very confusing and may confuse your thinking process.

Get help. It’s hard to deal with abuse or by just telling a friend. Tell an adult you trust — a teacher, counselor, minister, or an adult friend may be a good choice. At any point in time, call Harbor House to speak to a caring, trained professional who can support you and help you explore your options.

Keep telling someone until you get the help you need!

Believe your friend. Many times, a person who has been hurt will tell a friend first. What you say to your friend is IMPORTANT. Don’t blame or doubt what your friend shares with you.

Be a good listener. Listen for feelings. Do your best not to ask questions or interrogate your friend. Encourage your friend to get help. Talking to a trusted adult together is a good first step. Help your friend think of choices they have for dealing with the relationship.

24-Hour Hotline: 815-932-5800

If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.

Consider double-dating for the first few times you go out with a new person.

Know the exact plans for the evening. Make sure a parent or friend is aware of these plans and what time to expect you home.

Be aware of your decreased ability to react or make good judgments when you or others are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If you leave a party with someone you do not know well, make sure you tell a friend that you are leaving and with whom. Ask your friend to call you to make sure you get home safely.

Be firm and straightforward. It’s okay and healthy to set boundaries in your relationships and then stick to them.

Trust your instincts. If you sense you are in danger, get help.

*Adapted from the Domestic Violence Advocacy Program of Family Resources, Inc.

For more information and statistics about teen dating violence, visit

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Physical Dating Violence Among High School Students—United States, 2003,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 19, 2006, Vol. 55, No. 19.

2 Liz Claiborne Inc., conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, (February 2005).

3 Davis, Antoinette, MPH. 2008. Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among Teens. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus.