May 6, 2005

Teenagers often look forward to the time when parents allow them to start dating. University of Kentucky Extension Sociologist Gary Hansen said dating can be a positive experience for teens, however it also has its risks.

“About one in 12 eighth- and ninth-graders suffer sexual violence in dating, and one in four report nonsexual violence,” he said. “Emotional abuse is also common. It can include name calling, blame, threats, jealousy, anger and attempts to control a partner’s dress, activities and friendships.”

The U.S. Department of Justice defines dating violence as “the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship.”

Hansen said victimized teenagers can be confused and may not know how to deal with a dating partner’s actions. They also may not be comfortable talking about the issue, causing them to suffer longer than necessary.

Parents with teens who are dating should watch for signs of abuse. Outward signs include bruises and injuries, changes in appearance or dress, emotional outbursts, dropping old friends and giving up things they care about.

“A young person suffering abuse may become insecure, destructive, angry or withdrawn,” Hansen added.

He said that while changes in friends and attitudes are common among teenagers, they still can be clues that a teen is being controlled by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

“If you suspect abuse, talk,” Hansen said. “Tell your teen you care about him or her and make sure they know it’s not their fault. Ask questions and offer advice. If you believe your teen is abusing a dating partner, confront him or her about it and seek expert help.”


Editor: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Gary Hansen 859-257-3471