Patti Skelton-McGougan, Youth Eastside ServicesOne in four teenagers is in a violent dating relationship. And forty percent of teenage girls, say they know someone their age who has been physically abused by a boyfriend. That surprises most parents I talk to.

Lasting effects of being in a violent relationship can be poor self-esteem, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, permanent injury and even death. So how can you know if your teen is in a violent situation? And more than that, how can we prevent our teens from accepting abusive relationships as a normal part of dating?

First, help your child develop good self-esteem, it plays a major role in developing healthy relationships and dating safely. Remind your teen of their worth, intelligence and unique beauty. And set a good role model in your relationships.

Be aware of warning signs

Violence takes many forms. It can be jealousy, possessiveness, threats, name calling and demanding behavior as well as slapping, pushing and shoving. Frequently it starts as non-violent controlling behaviors and escalates. To help your teen evaluate their situation, ask these questions:

1. Are you frightened by your friend’s temper or afraid to disagree?
2. Are you always apologizing for the way your friend acts?
3. Do you have to give your friend a reason for every place you go and every person you see?
4. Have you stopped seeing friends or family because of your friend’s jealousy?
5. Does your friend put you down?
6. Have you ever been hit, kicked, shoved or had things thrown at you?
7. Have you been forced to have sex when you didn’t want to?
8. Are you afraid to break-off a relationship because the person has threatened to hurt you or himself?

What to do if you suspect dating violence

If you suspect dating abuse, the first thing to do is talk to your teen about their relationship. Although young teens might think this is a normal part of dating you can help make them understand it is not.

While you may want be to forbid them from seeing the abuser again, that often backfires. It’s better to help your teen understand what is healthy and what is not and support them in coming to the right conclusion.

Let your child know you are there for them. Get the help of a counselor if needed. Youth Eastside Services has youth counselors especially trained in teen dating violence. If you believe your child is in immediate danger of physical harm, call 911 or Eastside Domestic Violence at 425-749-1940.

Patti Skelton-McGougan is Executive Director of Youth Eastside Services (YES). YES is a nonprofit organization and a leading provider of youth counseling and substance abuse services in the region. They are also home to one of the nation’s first programs to stop teen dating violence. Since 1968, YES has been a lifeline for kids and families, offering treatment, education and prevention services to help youth become healthy, confident and self-reliant and families to be strong, supportive and loving. While YES accepts insurance, Medicaid and offers a sliding scale, no one is turned away for inability to pay. For more information, visit

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