How can I help a teenager I think might be in a violent relationship?
One of the earliest prevention skills you can develop with young people is that they can talk to someone they trust about feeling unsafe – whether it’s about their feelings in general or about anything related to their body.
Four ways to support teens in unhealthy relationships
Our friends at House of Ruth are the experts. Here’s what they recommend you do to be a good supporter of a teenager in a dating relationship you’re concerned about:
Start a Conversation – Let them know you have noticed things that concern you. Ask if they have noticed the same and how that makes them feel. Help your friend identify behaviors by sharing information about unhealthy relationship signs.
Be Supportive – Don’t judge and keep an open mind. Remember your friend may not recognize the abuse. They may want it to stop, but not be ready to end the relationship. Help them get the resources they need like creating a safety plan.
Keep Communication Open – Stay calm. Your friend needs you to listen and be supportive. What you see or hear may make you upset. People in abusive relationships most likely speak to a friend first and sometimes no one else. If you shut them out you may be shutting down their only connection to help.
Get Support – If you feel your someone’s life is at risk or has been threatened, you can get emergency support by calling 911. Consider calling a hotline (like the House of Ruth in Maryland at 410-889-7884)
Teen dating and escalation: Why teen relationships matter
The CDC notes that partner violence in adolescence can be a precursor or risk factor for partner violence in adulthood. Experience with other forms of violence puts people at risk for perpetrating and experiencing intimate partner violence.
For example, children who are exposed to intimate partner violence between their parents or caregivers are more likely to perpetrate or experience intimate partner violence, as are individuals who experience abuse or neglect as children.
Additionally, adolescents who engage in bullying or peer violence are more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence.
Resources for teens experiencing dating and intimate partner violence
Hotlines teens can call to speak with with trained listeners and advocates:
House of Ruth Maryland 24-Hour Hotline: 410-889-7884
National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
LGBT National Help Center National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564 or National Youth Talkline 1-800-246-7743
Live chats with trained responders :
Sources for this page
- Rosado, Lourdes, The Pathways to Youth Violence; How Child Maltreatment and Other Risk Factors Lead Children to Chronically Aggressive Behavior. 2000. American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences: Leveraging the Best Available Evidence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention