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Dating Abuse Fact Sheet

View the Dating Abuse Fact Sheet in PDF


One in 11 adolescents reports being a victim of physical dating abuse each year.1 Many of these cases can be prevented by helping adolescents develop skills for healthy relationships with others.2

Dating Abuse Statistics

Adolescents and adults are often unaware how regularly dating abuse occurs.

  • About one in 11 adolescents reports being a victim of physical dating abuse each year.3
  • About one in four adolescents reports verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse each year.4, 5
  • About one in five adolescents reports being a victim of emotional abuse.6
  • About one in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.7
  • The overall occurrence of dating violence is higher among black (13.9%) than Hispanic (9.3%) or white (7.0%) students.8
  • About 72% of students in 8th and 9th grade report "dating."9 By the time they are in high school, 54% of students report dating violence among their peers.10

Adolescents in Abusive Relationship Are at Risk for Health Problems

Adolescents and adults often don't make the link between dating abuse and poor health.

  • About 70% of girls and 52% of boys who are abused report an injury from an abusive relationship.11
  • Approximately 8% of boys and 9% of girls have been to an emergency room for an injury received from a dating partner.12
  • Adolescents who are victims of dating violence are not only at increased risk for injury, but are also more likely to report binge drinking, suicide attempts, physical fighting and current sexual activity13
  • Rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco use, are more than twice as high in girls who report physical or sexual dating violence than in girls who report no abuse.14
  • The occurrence of dating violence is associated with unhealthy sexual behaviors that can lead to unintended pregnancy, STDs and HIV infections.15
  • o Abusive experiences during adolescent dating relationships may disrupt normal development, including the development of a stable self-concept, self-esteem and body image.16
  • Adolescents who are in abusive relationships often carry these unhealthy patterns of abuse into future relationships.17

Choosing Respect: Developing Healthy Relationships to Prevent Dating Abuse

Many instances of dating abuse can be prevented. Early adolescence has been characterized as a "window of opportunity" to get adolescents ready for future relationships. That's why adults need to talk to adolescents now about the importance of choosing respect and developing healthy relationships.

  • Several studies suggest that adolescents do not see negative consequences from their friends for carrying out dating violence.18 In one study, 31% of adolescents reported they had at least one friend who had been in a violent relationship.19
  • Acceptance of dating violence among friends is one of the strongest links to being involved in future dating violence.20, 21
  • Adolescents often believe that unhealthy relationships are the norm. Most of the relationships seen on TV, in the movies and in magazines are not good role models for relationships, because they are either unrealistic or unhealthy relationships.
  • Qualities like respect, good communication and honesty are absolute requirements for a healthy relationship. Adolescents that do not have this part down before they begin to date may have trouble forming healthy, nonviolent relationships with others.22, 23
  • Choose Respect is a nationwide effort to get adolescents to take steps to form healthy relationships with others - before they even start to date - to prevent dating violence before it starts.

For more information about CDC's work in dating abuse prevention go to www.cdc.gov/injury .

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1 Lynberg MC, Eaton D, et al. Prevalence and Associated Health Risk Behaviors of Physical Dating Violence Victimization among High School Students. United States, 2003. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2006 [In Press].

2 Foshee VA, Linder GF, Bauman KE, et al. The safe dates project: theoretical basis, evaluation design, and selected baseline findings. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 1996;12(2):39-47.

3 Lynberg MC, Eaton D, et al. Prevalence and Associated Health Risk Behaviors of Physical Dating Violence Victimization among High School Students. United States, 2003. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2006 [In Press].

4 Foshee VA, Linder GF, Bauman KE, et al. The safe dates project: theoretical basis, evaluation design, and selected baseline findings. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 1996;12(2):39-47.

5 Avery-Leaf S, Cascardi M, O'Leary KD, Cano A. Efficacy of a dating violence prevention program on attitudes justifying aggression. Journal of Adolescent Health 1997; 21:11-17.

6 Ibid.

7 Silverman JG, Raj A, Mucci L, Hathaway J. Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, and suicidality. Journal of the American Medical Association 2001; 286(5):5729.

8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Surveillance Summaries, May 21, 2004. MMWR 2004:53(No. SS-2). Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5302.pdf.

9 Foshee VA, Linder GF, Bauman KE, et al. The safe dates project: theoretical basis, evaluation design, and selected baseline findings. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 1996;12(2):39-47.

10 Jaffe P, Sudermann M, Reitzel D, Killip S. An evaluation of a secondary school primary prevention program on violence in intimate relationships. Violence and Victims 1992; 7: 129-146.

11 Foshee VA. Gender differences in adolescent dating abuse prevalence, types and injuries. Health Education Research 1996; 11(3):275-286.

12 Ibid.

13 Lynberg MC, Eaton D, et al. Prevalence and Associated Health Risk Behaviors of Physical Dating Violence Victimization among High School Students. United States, 2003. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2006 [In Press].

14 Plichta SB. Violence and abuse: implications for women's health. In Falik MM, and Collins KS. Editors. Women's health: the commonwealth survey. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1996.

15 Silverman JG, Raj A, Mucci L, Hathaway J. Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, and suicidality. Journal of the American Medical Association 2001; 286(5):5729.

16 Ackard DM, Neumark-Sztainer D. Date violence and date rape among adolescents: associations with disordered eating behaviors and psychological health. Child Abuse and Neglect 2002; 26:455-473.

17 Smith PH, White JW, Holland LJ. A longitudinal perspective on dating violence among adolescent and college-age women. American Journal of Public Health 2003; 93(7): 1104-1109.

18 Hotaling GT, Sugarman DB. An analysis of risk markers in husband to wife violence: The current state of knowledge. Violence and Victims 1986; 1(2): 101124.

19 Arriaga XB, Foshee VA. Adolescent dating violence. Do adolescents follow in their friends' or their parents', footsteps? Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2004;19(2): 162-184.

20 Bergman, L. Dating violence among high school students. Social Work 1992; 37: 2127.

21 Arriaga XB, Foshee VA. Adolescent dating violence. Do adolescents follow in their friends' or their parents', footsteps? Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2004;19(2): 162-184.

22 Wekerle C, Wolfe DA. Dating violence in mid-adolescence: theory, significance, and emerging prevention initiatives. Clinical Psychology Review 1999; 19:435-456. 23 Feiring C and Furman WC. When love is just a four-letter word: victimization and romantic relationships in adolescence. Child Maltreatment 2000; 5(4):293-298.