Dating abuse is a big problem in the U.S. One in 3 teens will experience dating violence, and 1 in 5 will experience severe physical violence from a dating partner. The numbers are even higher for LGBTQ youth. Young people who experience dating violence are more likely than their peers to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, engage in unhealthy or antisocial behaviors, and think about suicide.
The easiest way to stop dating or domestic violence is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Everyone can help prevent violence, including parents, teachers, clergy, coaches, friends, and family.
We put together three things you can do to help prevent dating violence.
Talk about healthy relationships
It’s never too early to start talking with kids and teens about healthy relationships. This includes talking in an age-appropriate way about consent, establishing boundaries, and communicating honestly. Teach them to recognize signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. If you don’t know how to start the conversation, check out Love is Respect’s info on healthy relationships.
Listen and give support
Avoiding talking about violence doesn’t help. Let the young people in your life know that you’re a safe person to talk to. Listen to their concerns and approach from a place of empathy. Saying, “I’m concerned about you, and it’s not okay for anyone to be treated like this,” can help a young person hear your concerns. Encourage young people to seek additional help from a teen dating violence program, advocate, or counselor.
Empower bystanders to help others
Teach young people what to do if they witness someone else experiencing abuse. Encourage them to take action when a friend is in an unhealthy relationship, first by talking and offering support.
How to support a friend
- Choose a good time and place to talk.
- Check for immediate safety.
- Ask questions and listen without judgment.
- Emphasize that you are concerned.
- Let them know that the violence is not their fault.
- Let them know that NO abuse is ever acceptable.
- Let them know that they can make their own choices about what to do.
- Leave the door open—make it clear you are available if they ever want to engage again.