Dating abuse is when one person in a relationship intentionally uses abusive tactics to gain power and maintain control over their partner over a period of time. Abusive behavior can be verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, digital, and/or physical. Dating abuse can happen to anyone.

If your child is in a same sex relationship and/or identifies as transgender, the information offered on these pages applies to them as well.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer youth experience abusive relationships at the same rates and in much the same way heterosexual couples do.

Red Flags for an Abusive Relationship:

One partner…

  • Frequently texts, calls, or checks up on the other on social media
  • Wants to know where the other is at all times
  • Shows up unexpectedly
  • Is short tempered and hits or smashes things when angry
  • Yells at the other and calls them names
  • Is fascinated with weapons
  • Rough houses and play-wrestles with the other, and it sometimes looks like they are not enjoying it
  • Pressures the other for sex or sexual images
  • Breaks the other’s will

Warning Signs that Your Child is in an Abusive Relationship:

Your Child…

  • Is afraid to make them angry and is overly eager to please
  • Becomes secretive and isolated from family and friends
  • Gains or loses weight rapidly, or changes their appearance dramatically
  • Makes excuses for their partner and apologizes for their behavior
  • Wears clothing that is inappropriate for the weather in order to cover signs of physical abuse

How to Help Your Child:

  • Listen and believe what they tell you. They are probably minimizing the abuse.
  • Refrain from judging, lecturing, and blaming.
  • Resist the urge to tell her or him what to do or to demand an end the relationship. Teenagers want privacy and independence. Attempting to make them break up will only create a stronger bond between the two.
  • Don’t minimize her or his feelings or make light of the emotions being felt. Don’t say “It’s just a stage.”
  • Don’t criticize the partner: it may stop her or him from confiding in you.
  • Be aware that the partner may be intentionally charming you so that you will not look for signs of abuse or believe stories of abuse.

Use questions to point out behavior that is not normal in a healthy relationship. Your child may not even realize the relationship is unhealthy. Questions allow you to listen deeply to what is going on in the relationship and will bring abusive aspects of their relationship into your child’s awareness.  Ask…

“What do they do that makes you feel special?”

“What is it you love about them?”

“Have they ever made you feel scared?”

“What happens if you don’t respond to a call or a text?”

“How do they act when jealous?”

Express your concern by saying…

“You don’t deserve to be treated that way.”

“I’m always here for you whenever you need anything.”

“I’m afraid for your safety.”

Enlist help by…

Recommending your teen call our confidential hotline. They can also use the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline Live Chat. This feature is typically available from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. EST at

Inform your teen’s school. They are obligated to insure the safety of your child.

Contact your local domestic violence organization if the school is refusing to help.

Call Our Confidential Hotline: 1.800.537.6066   365/24/7

It’s for parents too! We will…

  • Listen to you without judgment.
  • Offer support and information about teen dating abuse.
  • Explore your teen’s situation and answer any questions you may have.
  • Help you plan for your teen’s safety in school, outside of home, and at home.
  • Assist you in communicating effectively with your teen.
  • Keep your information confidential.
  • Inform you of legal options.