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Teen Dating Violence

signs of teen dating violence

Every parent worries about who their teenager dates. After all, who could be good enough for your little ray of sunshine? However, some cases warrant more concern than others.

Many people associate violence between romantic partners with adult married couples. But the truth is that teens experience dating violence, too. Teen dating violence or TDV is very dangerous and can lead to serious physical or emotional harm, or even death.

Violence in early romantic relationships can shape the way teens understand romantic relationships and how they engage in relationships later in life. If you’re afraid your child is experiencing TDV, then doing research like this is a good first step. Being able to identify the signs of this type of relationship can help you help your child before they face serious harm.

If your child has experienced TDV, it’s important that you know they are not alone. In fact, according to the National Institute of Justice, 10% of teens in the U.S. experience dating violence. And TDV is no stranger to the Buckeye State. At the end of 2009, then-Governor Ted Strickland signed Ohio House Bill 19 into law, which requires high schools to teach TDV prevention in their health classes. The bill is nicknamed the “Tina Croucher Act,” after Ohio teenager Tina Croucher, who was shot and killed by an abusive ex-boyfriend in 1992.

Whether your child has already experienced TDV or you’re afraid they may experience it, it is important that you don’t blame yourself. The fact that you’re on this page is a good first step.

What Is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence can take many different forms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it doesn’t look the same every time. All TDV is serious, but the signs of TDV can vary from unexplained bruises to intense teasing. Teen dating violence today can take place in person, online, or through different kinds of technology.

Teen dating violence is considered to be what is known as an adverse childhood experience or ACE. ACEs can be very formative for the children who experience them and are linked to future problems in adult life, like mental illness and substance use disorders.

Essentially, teen dating violence is any form of emotional, physical, or sexual violence done to a teen by their romantic or sexual partner. Often, this is not a one-time occurrence but rather a pattern of behavior that occurs throughout the course of the relationship. It is not uncommon for this type of behavior to escalate and get worse the longer the relationship goes on.

Physical Violence

Physical violence is one of the more visible and easily noticeable forms of teen dating violence.

Physical violence may include:

  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Biting
  • Scratching
  • Shoving
  • Hair pulling

Physical violence, or the threat of physical violence, may take other forms as well. Physical violence is often used as a tool for one partner to maintain power over the other. This may be to stop one partner from ending the relationship or to get them to do other things within the relationship, like not doing things that the abusive partner doesn’t like.

However, TDV is never the victim’s fault. Using physical violence to manipulate a romantic partner is always wrong.

Your child may show signs of experiencing physical violence, like bruising, bite marks, or scratches. They may also express fear of physical contact or be afraid of sudden sounds or movements. Your child may also do things to try to hide signs of abuse, like cover up marks with makeup or baggy clothes.

If you are afraid your child is being physically abused by a romantic partner, talk to them about what they are going through. Make sure to express your concern for their wellbeing, and let them know you will help keep them safe. It is also important to talk to your child about what physical abuse looks like and the fact that it is never OK for their romantic partner to hurt them.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence may be more difficult for a parent to notice immediately as there are often fewer visible signs. Sexual violence is also often difficult for teens to talk about as they have little sexual experience and may not feel that they know what sex is supposed to be like. They may also feel ashamed or like they are somehow to blame for their partner’s sexual abuse. Sexual violence can take place physically or virtually.

Sexual violence includes:

  • Forcing someone to perform sexual acts without their consent
  • Performing sexual acts on someone without their consent
  • Touching someone in a sexual way without their consent
  • Posting sexual pictures of someone online without their consent
  • Sending other people sexual pictures of someone without their consent
  • Sending someone sexual pictures of yourself or others without their consent
  • Sexting (sending a sexually graphic message) to someone without their consent

Since sexual violence does not just take place physically but also virtually, it can be more difficult to identify. There may be physical signs, like obvious pain. But many times, sexual violence has psychological and emotional impacts that result in fear, anxiety, and depression.

If you are afraid your child is experiencing sexual violence at the hands of a romantic partner, you should talk to them and let them know they are safe with you. It is important to let them know there is no shame in what has happened to them, and it is not their fault.

Psychological Aggression

Psychological aggression does not leave physical marks on a person, but it can be extremely harmful. People who experience psychological aggression at the hands of a romantic partner often struggle to tell people about the abuse. They may come to believe they deserve the abuse they have experienced, or that what their partner says is true. However, no one deserves to be abused.

Psychological aggression includes:

  • Bullying
  • Talking down to your partner
  • Intentionally embarrassing your partner
  • Controlling where your partner goes and who they talk to
  • Name-calling
  • Shaming your partner

This kind of abuse can be difficult to identify. However, if you see your child’s partner acting cruelly, or you notice that your child’s mental health is declining, you should talk to your child privately about the issue. Make sure your child knows how much you care about them and that they never deserve to be treated badly by a romantic partner.


Stalking is another form of TDV. Stalking is slightly different from the previously discussed forms of dating violence. While other forms of abuse often end when one partner stops engaging or interacting with the other, stalking may continue after the relationship ends.

Stalking can include:

  • Following a partner around without their consent
  • Showing up and/or waiting around somewhere you know your partner will be (like their work, school, or home) without their consent
  • Harassing them online with threatening messages
  • Spamming their phone with inappropriate messages or threats
  • Harassing or following a partner in a way that makes them fear for their safety.

If you notice that your child’s partner or former partner is showing up out of the blue all the time or harassing them through technology, this may be stalking. It is important to discuss this with your child and let them know that their safety is your top priority. As with any form of violence, stalking is illegal, and it may be appropriate to get local law enforcement involved.

Treatment at SUN Behavioral Columbus

If your child has experienced teen dating violence, they may benefit from seeing a teen therapist who can help them work through the trauma they have experienced.

TDV can have different effects on different people, but TDV often contributes to new or worsening mental illnesses. These can include depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, emotional disorders, and eating disorders.

At SUN Behavioral Columbus, we focus on treating our patients using evidence-based practices that have been shown to be effective in treating mood disorders. We use a combination of psychopharmacology and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Psychopharmacology refers to the use of medication to help manage symptoms of a mental or behavioral disorder. The use of medication does not mean an instant recovery will happen. Medication is a tool used to allow an individual to better focus and engage with our therapists during CBT.

CBT is a therapy that focuses on helping our patients uncover the deeper psychological issues that can affect their mental health. CBT works by helping patients identify unhelpful thought patterns and ideas, and empowers them to change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in reaction to a situation.

Regardless of what form of TDV your child has experienced, we are dedicated to helping them recover. We believe in the importance of helping our patients identify their needs and obstacles as a part of therapy.

Get Help at SUN Behavioral Columbus Today

Is your child or someone you care about experiencing teen dating violence? TDV is a serious issue and can have a severe impact on a person’s mental and physical health. Get your child the help they need. Start the process today by calling us at (614) 706-2786.


Get Help Today!

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