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How to Detect and Talk About Teen Dating Violence

UT Health counselor discusses what teen dating violence looks like and how to reach out

Violence in a relationship does not only happen during adulthood, but can be present in teenage relationships. “Teen dating violence can come in many forms,” UT Health licensed counselor Jennifer Peoples says. “When most people hear the word violence they think of something physical occurring.  However, relationship violence can also consist of emotional abuse, which is very subtle in nature, and sometimes very difficult to identify.” Abuse can start small with name calling, but escalate over time, happening in person or electronically.

“Any form of abuse can have lasting repercussions, especially if it is continuous in nature,” says Peoples. “Unfortunately, emotional abuse is just as harmful as physical or sexual abuse. These repercussions can impact physical, psychological and behavior areas that can impact quality of life. By being aware of how abuse can look, as well as feel, teens can be better prepared to know what situations might be viewed as warning signs and how to reach out for assistance should those circumstances warrant it.”

Some warning signs of an abusive relationship include:

  • Excessive jealousy from your partner.
  • Your partner constantly checks in on you and wants to know where you are.
  • Your partner controls what you wear, how you look, who you speak to and/or where you go.
  • He/she attempts to isolate you from others.
  • You worry about upsetting your partner or are afraid of his/her reaction.
  • Your partner demands to know your passwords and/or checks your phone or emails.
  • Your partner blames you for everything that goes wrong.
  • You get called names or are put down frequently by your partner.


Parents – Know How to Talk About Violence

Parents should pay attention to the behaviors of their dating teen to watch out for warning signs, but it’s also important to communicate with your child. “Parents being open about their concerns is important.  In order for teenagers to be able to reach out for help, they need to know how to communicate this with others and feel safe in doing so,” advises Peoples. “Sometime this means teaching teenagers how to communicate their feelings and concerns.  It also helps to have realistic boundaries in place so that parents can still monitor not only their child, but some of the interactions their child has with their partner.  If a parent is unhappy with something they have seen or heard, they must communicate their concern with their child.  It is very possible their child is unaware of what had happened, or at least unaware of the severity of it, and how it could be an indicator of an unhealthy behavior.  Being knowledgeable about what forms of help are available, if needed, is a good thing to review.”


Find guidance on this issue at The National Institute of Mental Health’s website:


Teens – Know When to Ask for Help

It can be hard to realize you are in a hurtful situation when you are in it. If you have noticed some of the warning signs in your partner, or have a friend who you believe is in a violent relationship, you should speak up. “Partner violence or abuse of any kind is a very difficult and harmful thing to experience.  While it can produce feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, it is not something that has to continue,” says Peoples. “By telling one person, they are starting the process of changing their circumstances.”


UT Health has a number of counseling professionals and providers in psychology who are more than happy to help when needed.  For information on how to access these services, contact your primary care physician. To find a primary care physician and schedule an appointment, call 903-596-DOCS.


Jennifer Peoples is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) who serves as the Program Manager for the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.  Her career in healthcare started as a health coach where she enjoyed helping people improve their quality of life, so becoming a counselor was a natural fit. Jennifer has a background in research, which she applies in her practice and in the psychology internship program where she trains future providers.