Authored by: Sarah Martin, Domestic Violence Outreach Advocate
It can be incredibly difficult and frustrating to know someone you love is experiencing abuse and it can be even harder to feel helpless trying to support them. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and Family Tree would like to provide ways you can help or support a teen you know that is experiencing dating violence.
According to loveisrespect.org, “1 in 3 girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.” Additionally, “1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a [partner]”. With statistics like these, it’s possible we all know a teen that has either experienced teen dating violence or is currently experiencing it. Here are some suggestions that we encourage you to try when supporting your loved one:
Ask Questions – Don’t be afraid to ask. Although it can seem awkward and uncomfortable, asking could potentially help them open up and increase their safety. Some questions you could ask are; “How have things been with you two lately?” or even, “I noticed you are having a hard time; how can I help?” If they decide to disclose the violence to you, be a friend. Let them know you care about them, that you are concerned about their safety and ultimately that it is not their fault. It’s also important to remind your loved one that normal relationships are not like this, making sure to comment about the behaviors and not about the abusive partner as the teen may feel defensive and might not open up about it again.
Understand That Leaving Is a Process – In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, it can be incredibly difficult for the person experiencing abuse to leave their partner. This process is not linear and can be different for everyone, so giving space and support to your loved one can sometimes be the best way to help. Leaving an abusive partner can be the most dangerous time for the person experiencing abuse. Although you are concerned for their safety, trust that the teen knows their relationship better than anyone and try to support them as they navigate this process. This can be more difficult if you are a parent. A parent might see the relationship violence and tell their teen that they will be grounded if they don’t break up with their partner. Autonomy is important in leaving an abusive partner, and ultimatums may encourage the teen to secretly continue the relationship. In order to keep open communication, try your best to support them in deciding their next steps.
Taking Care of Yourself – As previously stated, it can be incredibly difficult to watch a loved one, especially a teenager, experience violence in their relationship. Make sure you know your own limits, and if you feel like you need additional support you can reach out to the Family Tree Domestic Violence Outreach Program, where advocates are available to give support and resources to both you and your loved one.
For Your Teen – LoveIsRespect.org peer advocates are available 24/7 via phone
(1-866-331-9474), online chat and text ( by texting “loveis” to 22522).
Additionally, there is an app for teens; Choose Respect that can be a great resource for youth.
Family Tree’s 24-hour domestic violence crisis line is (303) 420-6752 and serves teens and adults.
If you would like to learn more about Family Tree’s Domestic Violence Outreach Program, please visit https://www.thefamilytree.org/domestic-violence-outreach-program for program and contact information.