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Teen Dating Violence

MPLP Summer 2008 Family Law Section Newsletter Article

                Issue 36, Summer 2008

Teen Dating Violence

by: allison Lessne

MPLP Student intern


What is it?


Teen dating violence (also known as teen relationship abuse or teen intimate relationship violence) is a pattern of assaultive and controlling behaviors that one teen uses against another in order to gain or maintain power in the relationship. It can happen in straight or gay relationships, although most victims of intimate partner violence are women.[1] It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination. 


What types of behaviors are included in teen dating violence?


Controlling behavior may include:

  • Not letting you hang out with your friends
  • Calling or paging you frequently to find out where you are, whom, you’re with, and what you’re doing
  • Telling you what to wear
  • Having to be with you all the time  

Verbal and emotional abuse may include:

  • Calling you names
  • Jealousy
  • Belittling you
  • Threatening to hurt you, someone in your family, or himself or herself if you don’t do what he or she wants

Physical abuse may include:

  • Shoving
  • Punching
  • Slapping
  • Pinching
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Hair pulling
  • Strangling

Sexual abuse may include:

  • Unwanted touching and kissing
  • Forcing you to have sex
  • Not letting you use birth control
  • Forcing you to do other sexual things that make you feel uncomfortable


How prevalent is teen dating violence?

  • 1 in 5 teens who have been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner.
  • 1 in 3 girls who have been in a serious relationship say they've been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner.
  • 1 in 4 teens who have been in a serious relationship say their boyfriend or girlfriend has tried to prevent them from spending time with friends or family; the same number have been pressured to only spend time with their partner.
  • 1 in 3 girls between the ages of 16 and 18 say sex is expected for people their age if they're in a relationship; half of teen girls who have experienced sexual pressure report they are afraid the relationship would break up if they did not give in.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 girls who have been in a relationship reported going further sexually than they wanted as a result of pressure.



What are the remedies to address teen dating violence?


There are both legal and non-legal remedies available if you are a victim, or know someone who is a victim, of teen dating violence.



  • Report the abuse to the police.  Under Michigan law, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking is against the law.
  • Get a Personal Protection Order (PPO)
    • A PPO is a civil order signed by a judge that is designed to prevent future violent and harassing behavior and to protect the victims and their families from their abuser.
    • To qualify for a PPO, the abuser must be someone you are dating or used to date[2] and has physically abused you, sexually abused you, threatened to injure or kill you, stalk you or acted in a way that causes you to be in fear of violence.
    • If you are 18 and older, you can get a protection order on your own without an adult’s permission.  If you are under 18, you must have an adult (acting as your “next friend”) file for you.  This can be your parent or another trusted adult.
    • In a protection order you may ask the court for the following:
      • Abuser must not assault, attack, beat, molest wound you.
      • Abuser must not threaten to kill or injure you.
      • Abuser must stay away from you and your home, school, work and other places you often go and any place you are currently in.
      • Abuser must not contact, harass, annoy, or otherwise communicate with you.
      • Temporary and/or exclusive use of property or access to property.
      • Abuser must stay away from where you live.
      • Abuser must not use and must surrender all firearms
    • The cost is free for filing a protection order



  • Talk to someone you trust like a parent, teacher, school principal, counselor or nurse.  Just remember, some of these adults are “mandated reporters,” which means they are legally required to report neglect or abuse of a minor to the police or child protective services.  Some of these mandated reporters are teachers, counselors, doctors, social workers.  You can ask people if they are a mandated reporter before you talk to them to see what you want to do. 
  • Talk to a trusted family member, a friend’s parent, an adult neighbor or friend, an older sibling or cousin, or any other experienced person who you trust.
  • If you know someone who might be in an abusive relationship:
    • Listen to what she has to say with undivided attention.
    • Believe what she tells you since it took a lot of courage for her to do so.
    • Do not make judgments about the situation or the decisions she has chosen to make.
    • Be supportive.
    • Tell her repeatedly that it is not her fault.  Victims of abuse and assault often feel like it is their fault and blame themselves- reassure her that the blame lies with the abuser.
    • Educate yourself about teen dating violence and available options
    • Keep her privacy.  Do not tell others, unless it is to an adult who can provide support.
  • Call someone! You can call the 24 hour National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline- 1-866-331-9474,the National Crime Victim Hotline- 1-800-FYI-CALL, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline- 1-800-799-SAFE.
  • Contact your local domestic violence agency for support and assistance.  A list of agencies in Michigan is available from the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence at


What are the barriers to getting help?


  • Pressure to fit in with peers can push some teen victims not to identify abusive behavior as such, but to see it as normal.  Many times teens have stereotypical gender roles, with domineering boys and submissive girls, whose job is to put the boy’s needs first and make the relationship work.  Teenage girls need to understand that an appropriate intimate relationship is built on mutual respect and trust. 
  • Needing an adult to file a for a protective order may deter teens from seeking legal remedies like a protective order because they might not want their parents to know about the abuse.
  • Many teens literally have nowhere to go to escape the abuse because they are dependent on their parents and family for support.  Some parents will not or cannot move, while teenagers often do not want to leave their schools and their neighborhoods.



Helpful websites:


Love Is Respect-

Break the Cycle-

Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence -

Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention & Treatment Board-

National Center for Victims of Crime, Dating Violence Resource Center-

The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence-



[1] We use the female victim perspective since studies have show that females are overwhelmingly the victims and males the perpetrators of dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Still, this information can be used for any victim- both male and female- to get help.

[2] Michigan state law defines “dating” as frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectional involvement.

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