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Certain factors may increase teens’ risk of experiencing and perpetrating teen dating violence.

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There are also risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of a teen becoming a perpetrator of dating violence.

Many of these are developmentally normal in youth, such as little to no relationship experience, vulnerability to peer pressure, and unsophisticated communication skills.

Dating violence is controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination.

February is national Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month. We all have images that spring to mind when we think of this kind of abuse, and more than likely none of them are teenagers.

A plethora of high-profile cases, like Ray Rice, have drawn plenty of attention to adult domestic abuse, but dating violence is also increasing in severity among younger age groups.

Singer Rihanna’s abuse by boyfriend Chris Brown is just one example as then 19-year-old Rihanna made her history of physical abuse at the hands of Chris Brown known to the world. In most cases it starts much earlier before it develops into full-fledged violence, and in some tragic instances, death.

A 16-year-old verbally abusing and emotionally controlling his girlfriend after class might make for a less dramatic mental image than our glamorous celebrity examples, but it doesn’t deserve our attention any less.

Statistics tell us that most victims of dating violence are girls between the ages of 16 and 24.

What’s more, many victims of domestic violence report having been first abused between the ages of 11 and 17.

When we remain unaware that dating violence is a teen issue, we miss the very root of the problem.

Another scary fact tells us that violent behaviors within a dating relationship are occurring at earlier and earlier ages as younger and younger children start dating.

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