Nurturing Healthy Relationships: Insights for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

As we close out the month of February, we want to acknowledge and bring awareness to Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). Teen dating violence (TDV) is a significant issue that often goes unaddressed. TDV, also known as dating violence, encompasses various forms of abusive behavior, including physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking. It can occur in person, online, or through technology. TDV significantly affects the lives of millions of young people in the United States, leading to adverse childhood experiences that can have long-lasting effects on health, opportunities, and overall well-being.

Startling statistics reveal that dating violence is common among teens and young adults. Data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019 shows that approximately 1 in 12 high school students experienced physical or sexual dating violence within the preceding 12 months. Certain groups, such as female students and those identifying as LGBTQ+, are at a higher risk of experiencing TDV. Fear of reporting to family and friends often prevents teens from seeking help. Additionally, nearly half of U.S. college women report encountering violent or abusive dating behaviors. These figures underscore the urgency for proactive intervention and support from behavioral health providers to address the pervasive issue of teen dating violence.

The Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) 2024 theme, “Love Like That,” underscores the significance of comprehending healthy and unhealthy relationships. Behavioral health providers hold a unique position to guide teens and young adults in understanding how to foster healthy relationships. Acknowledging that unhealthy relationship patterns can emerge early and persist over time, early intervention is paramount to preventing TDV. Through education and intervention programs, young people can be empowered to identify abusive behaviors and seek assistance. While some teens may view behaviors like teasing and name-calling as everyday aspects of relationships, it’s crucial to highlight that such behaviors can escalate into severe forms of violence and abuse. Behavioral health providers are pivotal in supporting TDV victims through counseling, advocacy, and facilitating access to resources. It is essential to create safe environments where teens feel comfortable discussing their experiences and seeking help, free from fear of judgment or reprisal. Below are some key messages outlined in the TDVAM 2024 Action Guide.

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Navigating the terrain of expressing love as a teenager can be both exhilarating and challenging. While discovering how others wish to receive love may sometimes lead to a loss of love for oneself, this transformative phase of life also presents an opportunity to demonstrate love to oneself. Prioritizing self-care becomes essential during this period, enabling individuals to tend to their internal needs and experiences, thereby nurturing authenticity and empowerment. Self-care encompasses a spectrum of activities aimed at promoting well-being and self-awareness. From journaling thoughts and feelings to nourishing one’s body with a healthy meal, each intentional act contributes to a deeper understanding of oneself and lays the groundwork for cultivating healthy relationships.

Understanding the elements of a healthy relationship is paramount for teens navigating new relationships. Respect, equality, trust, honesty, communication, and consent are foundational aspects that must be present for a relationship to be deemed healthy. Consent, in particular, is integral, encompassing physical interactions and digital, emotional, and mental boundaries. Recognizing signs of trust and honesty within a relationship involves assessing mutual respect for privacy, comfort with spending time apart, and the ability to share feelings without fear of judgment. Conflict resolution is another crucial aspect of a healthy relationship, emphasizing respectful dialogue and mutual understanding.

In contrast, unhealthy relationships may exhibit traits such as lack of communication, disrespect, dishonesty, only spending time together, feeling pressured, and attempts to exert control. Recognizing these warning signs is essential to safeguard one’s well-being and autonomy. Two toxic behaviors within teen relationships that are particularly prevalent right now are body shaming and revenge porn. Body shaming undermines self-esteem and autonomy, while revenge porn constitutes a severe violation of trust and consent. Both behaviors are indicative of abusive dynamics and should be confronted and addressed promptly.

Body shaming is a harmful practice that can significantly impact self-esteem and confidence, diminishing one’s sense of autonomy. It often occurs when a partner or individual makes negative comments about someone’s appearance or clothing choices. This form of bullying can lead to other types of abuse and is not limited to romantic relationships but can also happen on dating apps and social media platforms. Examples of body shaming include unsolicited diet or exercise advice and comments such as suggesting someone would be more attractive if they lost or gained weight or making judgments based on someone’s gender identity or body type. These remarks can have lasting effects on individuals’ mental well-being and should be addressed to foster a culture of acceptance and respect.

Revenge porn, a form of digital abuse, involves the unauthorized distribution of nude or sexually explicit images or videos of a person, often by a current or former partner as retaliation or blackmail. Despite its prevalence, with roughly half of people being unaware of it, revenge porn intersects with sexual abuse and is a particularly insidious form of online harassment. Young people, especially those under 30, are more likely to experience online harassment, with approximately 70% reporting such incidents. While the initial sharing of images or videos may have been consensual, it’s crucial to recognize that revenge porn is often used as a tactic for power and control. This can involve various methods, including deepfakes, hidden camera photos, upskirt photos, or posting intimate materials without consent. Regardless of the circumstances, engaging in such behavior is abusive and undermines trust in a relationship. If someone feels pressured or threatened regarding explicit content, they can seek support and safety planning from organizations like Love is Respect, which offers 24/7 assistance from trained advocates.

As we observe Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, let’s commit to supporting our youth and teens to foster healthy relationships built on mutual respect, understanding, and consent. By promoting awareness, education, and advocacy, we can create a safer and more supportive environment for young people to navigate relationships with confidence and empowerment.

Ways to Learn More:

CDC has developed resources to help communities focus their prevention efforts on what works to address risk and protective factors for violence:

  • Dating Matters®: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships is a comprehensive prevention model that teaches 11-14-year-olds how to have healthy, safe relationships both now and in the future. Programs for youth include interactive lessons on understanding feelings, healthy communication, unhealthy and unsafe relationships, and other topics. Dating Matters also includes programs for parents, educators, and older youth to help build protective environments and change social norms. Research shows that Dating Matters can reduce the risk for dating violence exposure in middle school, along with other forms of violence and risk behaviors.
  • Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Resource for Action [5 MB, 62 Pages]describes strategies and approaches based on the best available evidence for preventing intimate partner violence, including teen dating violence. It includes multiple strategies that can be used in combination to prevent intimate partner violence and teen dating violence.
  • Download tools, training, and prevention information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s VetoViolence toolkit .
  • Share the LoveIsRespect 2024 Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month Action Guide  (PDF)  for information on this year’s TDVAM theme, “Love Like That.” Selected by the love is respect Youth Council, “Love Like That,” illuminates what “that” means regarding healthy and unhealthy relationships. We know that love is more than a feeling; no matter how you define it, it’s essential to ensure you’re on the same page with your partner about the definitions and boundaries of your relationship. Teens and young adults express their love for one another in many ways, which differ from person to person or community. All expressions of love are valid. However, the essential aspect of “Love Like That” calls on us all to create a world of positive actions to express and show healthy love in various ways.
  • Collaborate with community partners to build the capacity of parents, teachers, and other community members to identify and respond to signs of dating abuse among teens.  Domestic violence organizations need to have strong partnerships with schools, faith communities, cultural community centers, and other youth-serving organizations. These organizational partnerships can also provide great opportunities to connect with local youth leaders in your community! For strategies to engage parents, schools, and other youth-serving organizations in dating violence prevention and healthy relationship skill-building, check out the PreventIPV Tools Inventory .
  • Special Collection:  This special Preventing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence  collection emphasizes collaborative and multi-level approaches to the prevention of and response to teen dating violence (TDV). It draws on the work of many organizations and organizes the resources on TDV prevention and responses by different populations. The first section of this special collection provides general information about teen dating violence. The following six sections include TDV information related to 1) young people, 2) bystanders, 3) parents and caregivers, 4) men and boys, 5) teachers and school-based professionals, 6) health care professionals, 7) pregnancy prevention programs, and 8) domestic violence and sexual violence service providers. The final section presents documents on TDV-related laws and legislation. The special collection concludes with national programs that address TDV and a list of national and statewide organizations and programs.
  • Watch the 2023 Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month Podcast!   Where teens from across the country talk with OFVPS and love is respect about healthy relationships, how teen dating violence impacts our community, and peer to peer tips on understanding the warning signs of teen dating violence.


National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. (Last Reviewed: January 27, 2023). Fast Facts: Preventing Teen Dating Violence. Retrieved from

National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2024). Love is respect Action Guide, 2024 Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Retrieved from

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