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Illuminating Shadows: Addressing Teen Dating Violence in the American Indian Community

Updated: Mar 26

Understanding the Issue

As we observe Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, it’s crucial to shine a light on the unique challenges and disproportionate impact of dating violence on American Indian teens. Teen dating violence, including physical, emotional, sexual, and digital abuse affects adolescents across all demographics. However, American Indian teens face higher risks and consequences. 


Teen Dating Violence manifests in various forms, each harmful in its unique way: 

  • Physical Violence: This includes any form of physical harm inflicted upon one partner by the other, such as hitting, punching, or any other physical assault.

  • Emotional Abuse: Emotional or psychological abuse involves verbal insults, threats, intimidation, and behaviors aimed at undermining a partner’s self-esteem and sense of security.  

  • Sexual Abuse: This form of abuse includes non-consensual sexual activities, ranging from unwanted touching to sexual assault.  

  • Digital Abuse: In the digital age, abuse can also occur online. This includes using technology to harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. It might involve excessive texting, spreading rumors online, or using social media to control a partner’s activities. 

Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year. SOURCE 3


The Impact of Teen Dating Violence

The repercussions of TDV are far-reaching, affecting not just the physical well-being of teenagers but also their emotional and psychological health. Victims of teen dating violence are at a higher risk of substance abuse, eating disorders, engaging in risky sexual behaviors, and even contemplating suicide. The cycle of abuse can also perpetuate, leading to future instances of domestic violence in adult relationships.  


Pathways to Prevention  

Preventing teen dating violence requires a multi-faceted approach. Education plays a pivotal role in bringing awareness to the issue. Schools, communities, and families must work together to educate teens about the characteristics of healthy relationships and the warning signs of abuse.  


  • Education and Awareness: Teaching teenagers about healthy relationship dynamics and the importance of mutual respect, consent, and communication.  

  • Early Intervention: Providing resources and support for those experiencing teen dating violence is crucial. Early intervention can help prevent the escalation of abuse and assist victims in recovery.  

  • Promoting Healthy Relationships: Encouraging open conversations about relationships, setting boundaries, and respecting each other’s individuality and freedom.  


Teen dating violence is a pressing issue that demands attention, understanding, and action. By fostering environments where teenagers feel supported and empowered to speak out, we can pave the way for a future where relationships are built on the foundation of respect, equality, and love. Let us commit to educating our youth about the significance of healthy relationships and the dangers of dating violence, ensuring a safer and more understanding world for the generations to come. 


Resources and Support

  1. Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women:

  2. IHCRC DVP Hub:

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