How to spot signs your teen is being abused

Woman comforts teen girl

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. We turned to Wedgwood Christian Services to provide resources that parents should know about teen relationships and violence.

What is Teen Dating Violence?

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network says teen dating violence is any type of violence that happens between two people in a romantic relationship. The violence can by physical, sexual, or emotional, and can happen in person or electronically by texting or on social media.

Signs of Traumatic Stress

Middle and high school children may:

  • Feel depressed and alone
  • Discuss traumatic events in detail
  • Develop eating disorders and self-harming behaviors
  • Start using or abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Become sexually active
  • Feel like they’re going crazy
  • Feel different from everyone else
  • Take too many risks
  • Have sleep disturbances
  • Don’t want to go places that remind them of the event
  • Say they have no feeling about the event
  • Show changes in behavior

Teen Sexual Assault

Teen sexual assault can occur as part of dating violence, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. It can also happen outside of a romantic relationships, such as a friend, classmate, acquaintance, or stranger. Teen sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

What Can I Do?

  • Teach your teen to set limits in a relationship and how to express those limits. Tell him or her that if someone crosses those boundaries, to speak out and act immediately. A great resource is the Dating Bill of Rights.
  • Let your teen know that he or she has the right to change his or her mind, to say no, or agree to some sexual activities but not to others.
  • Educate your teen about risks of drinking or drug use, and how they reduce a person’s ability to think and communicate clearly.
  • Teach your teen to be aware of where they are hanging out and who they are with. Tell them to trust their instincts. If they don’t feel safe, they should leave.
  • Tell your teen to always have a back-up plan, such as going to a party with a trusted friend or having a person they can call if they need a ride home.

Need Help?

Wedgwood Christian Services –
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network –
911Rape –
National Sexual Violence Resource Center –
Project Respect –
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) –
The Date Safe Project –
The Safe Space –
Love is Respect –
Futures without Violence –

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