A common misconception about our services is that we only work with adults. Unfortunately, we also come across teens and adolescents that are facing intimate partner violence (IPV) situations of their very own; this is known as teen dating violence (TDV). Teen dating violence, by textbook definition, is a pattern of behavior within a romantic relationship that includes physical, emotional, verbal and/or sexual abuse used by one person in the relationship to exert power and control over the other. TDV usually does not happen just one time, but instead, happens many times over and over again. These violent situations are not always consecutive; in fact, they are often interrupted by periods of tension building in between. These periods of tension building can also include random acts of kindness or what seems to be loving behaviors. These masked moments are known as honeymooning, and they can be very dangerous times for the teens going through them. Honeymooning is often what is used to manipulate the abused teen to remain in the unhealthy and abusive relationship. By convincing the survivor that it is not always bad, the abuser is able to continue their patterns of power of control within the relationship.
So what do these patterns of power and control look like? Some the abuse tactics used in TDV relationships mirror the same abuse tactics that we come across in domestic violence relationships as well. For example, verbal belittling and threats are both very common abuse tactics used in all IPV situations regardless of the age of the individuals in the relationship. Isolation from close family, friends, and other social connections are also commonly used abuse tactics in TDV and domestic violence situations. Unfortunately, physical abuse is another commonly mirrored abuse tactic as well as the survivor's learned ability to mask or hide evidence of the abuse.
Although there are many abuse tactics that are similar between domestic violence and teen dating violence, there are tactics that are more specific to TDV. For example, we often see digital abuse being extremely prevalent in TDV situations and mostly focused on social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. TDV also can often involve the manipulation of peer groups and/or the influence of peer pressure to bully the survivor into succumbing to the power and control. Friends are a powerful tool when it comes to any teen relationship, but especially abusive ones. Social status is another abuse tactic that is often used in TDV situations, especially when the abuser and the survivor attend the same school and/or are in the same social circles. There are also sexual abuse tactics that tend to be more specific to TDV such as sexual coercion. This is more common among teens because it is often a less experienced population sexually, and it is happening at an age where sexuality is just starting to become understood by them.
TDV is a pandemic of epic proportions and impacts so many more teens than most of us realize. According to recent studies, one out of every three teenagers that has been in a romantic relationship reports experiencing some sort of TDV within their relationship. That means one third of all teens you know that have been on a date have already experienced abuse. TDV is impacting teens not just around the world or around the country, but around our very community, our schools, our churches, our workplaces, and even in our very own families. This precursor to domestic violence is teaching our teens unhealthy patterns of what they perceive as love and acceptance, and it can ultimately destroy their ability to form healthy relationships in the future. If you know of a teen that might be struggling with their perception of healthy relationships or have a teen interested in getting involved in TDV advocacy send them over to our Serene Harbor Crew page. The Crew is a safe space for teens and youth to talk about their relationships and what struggles or challenges they might be facing without fear of judgment or insecurity of any kind. They can ask questions about their relationships or their friends' relationships and be provided with helpful resources on the topics that they have concerns about. Click on the button below to learn more!