Teenage love and dating violence | Dr. Gray

Teenage love is young, intense, all encompassing and sometimes even dangerous.

Try to remember back to high school and some of your own early dating experiences. Recall the intensity and confusion tantamount to dating and dealing with the opposite sex. That trip down memory lane should remind you of the multitude of emotions involved in teenage dating.

But, love should not be synonymous with pain. Pain and fear are not expressions of love. Emotional abuse and physical abuse should not be confused with love.

According to recent statistics, one out of three adolescent girls has been involved in an abusive relationship. Most physical abuse starts out as verbal and/or emotional abuse. Emotional abuse includes name calling, put downs, manipulation, jealousy and attempts to control the behavior of the other person.

Emotional abuse is just as, if not more destructive than physical abuse, but the scars of emotional abuse are less visible. Over time, once a relationship has been established and an abuser has created trust, the emotional abuse can escalate to physical violence.

Many young girls feel trapped in abusive relationships. Teenage girls in dating situations are afraid to break up because they fear the abuser’s reaction or the abuser won’t accept the break up.

The warning signs of an abusive relationship:

• History of anger and loss of temper

• Treats you badly in front of others

• Family and friends show concern

• Grabs or pushes you to get way

• Blames others

• Over-reacts under stress

• Gets too serious, too fast

• Controls who you spend time with

• Acts jealous and obsessive

• Threatens or scares you

• Makes decisions without asking your opinion

• Pressures you into activities (sexual or other)

• Abuses alcohol or drugs

Many times the initial signs of abuse are unclear and less than obvious. Teenage girls are ashamed, uncertain, hopeful the abuser’s behavior will change, and mistrustful about asking the adults in their life for help. Abusive relationships cause serious damage to self-esteem and self-confidence, perpetuating the cycle of abuse, and making it more difficult to escape the abuse.

If you or someone you know has experienced the warning signs of an abusive relationship, tell a trusted adult and get help immediately. The longer you remain in an abusive relationship, the greater the danger and potential for violence.

It is important to remember that help is available.


• Teen Link: (206) 461-4922,

• Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA): (206) 322-4856,

• Consejo Counseling and Referral Service teen advocacy program: (206) 461-4880,

• Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN): (866) 286-3296,

• Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse: (206) 568-7777,

• Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline (24 hours): (800) 562-6025.


• "In Love and Danger: A Teen’s Guide to Breaking Free of Abusive Relationships," Barrie Levy, Seal Press, Seattle, 1993.

• "What Parents Need to Know about Dating Violence," Barrie Levy, Seal Press, Seattle, 1995.

Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D., is a private practice therapist in Federal Way who provides individual and family therapy. Contact: (253) 653-0168. Address: Parklane Executive Center, 31620 23rd Ave. S., Suite 318, Federal Way, WA 98003.

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