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When It's Not All Flowers and Candy

February is usually thought of as the month of love and hearts. It is also a time to focus on the darker side of relationships though. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Information about teen dating violence is shocking. Did you know that probably 1 in 3 high school students will face some type of dating violence? Think about that: 1 in 3 teenagers will go through some form of relationship abuse before the age of 18. Yet, 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or they say they don’t know about the problem. [1] More studies suggest that American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than people of other races, and 1 in 3 Indian women report having been raped. [2]

So, What Does Dating Abuse Actually Look Like?

Physical Abuse: Any force used to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.

Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, always knowing what someone is doing or who they are talking to, shaming, bullying, separation from others or stalking.

Sexual Abuse: Any action that causes a person to lose control of their sexual activity or the situations in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control.

Digital Abuse: Using social media to bully, harass or threaten a current or ex-boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. Demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyberbullying, unwanted sexting, too many texts or threatening texts or stalking on social media.

Stalking: Being watched, followed, or harassed. Stalking can occur online or in person, and may or may not include giving unwanted gifts. [3]

Common warning signs of dating abuse:

  • Checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission

  • Being very jealous or insecure

  • Always being put-down

  • Removing self from family and friends

  • Physically causing pain or hurt in any way

  • Being controlling

3 Ways to Help and Stop Teen Dating Abuse

  1. Teach youth what teen dating violence looks like. Have open talks with youth about teen dating violence and the warning signs of abuse. Also, discuss what healthy limits are and how this helps relationships.

  2. Promote and teach youth about what healthy relationships look like.During the teenage years, young people are learning skills they need to create positive relationships with others. This is the perfect time to push for healthy relationships and prevent patterns of dating violence that can last as an adult.

  3. Know what places or who is available to help.

In Oklahoma

  • Indian Health Care Resource Center of Tulsa - 918-382-1241

  • Muscogee Creek Nation- Tania Bardin -

  • Domestic Violence Intervention Services - 918.743.5763

Across the United States

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

  • When teens need help, they can reach out to peer advocates for one-on-one support by texting “loveis” to or calling

  • National Sexual Assault Hotline- 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)


  1. Break the Cycle. (n.d.). Learn About Dating Abuse. Retrieved from

  2. Tjaden, P & Thoennes, N. (2000). Department of Justice

  3. Break the Cycle. (n.d.). Warning Signs. Retrieved from

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