Let's talk about teen dating abuse

What is dating abuse?

Dating abuse - a pattern of abusive behavior used by one partner to exert and maintain power and control over a dating partner - affects teens in all kinds of romantic and sexual relationships. This abuse can affect anyone of any gender, sexual orientation, age, background, or identity.

Why is it important to talk about teen dating abuse?

1 in 3 high school students will experience physical or sexual violence from a dating partner, and 1 in 10 high school students report being purposefully physically harmed by a dating partner.* Women between the ages of 18-24 are 3 times as likely to experience intimate partner violence than any other demographic in the country.* Statistics show that this abuse starts early; among young people, physical or sexual violence and stalking are reported to begin when survivors are as young as 11 years old.

La Casa believes that these statistics are, quite simply, unacceptable. The impact of this type of violence is not only severe, but can affect a survivor and their community for many years, even after the abuse stops. Young people and teens who report having experienced dating violence are more likely to report poor mental health and higher rates of STIs, earn lower grades, and contemplate suicide at higher rates than their peers.

So what can we do to help stop this epidemic? It’s important to know the signs of dating abuse, and understand how you can support a teen that may be experiencing an unsafe or unhealthy relationship.

What are some signs of dating abuse?

While young people may experience the same types of abuse and violence as adults, their age and status in our community can be a significant factor in how they may experience violence and seek support. Some warning signs of teen dating abuse include:

  • Checking cell phones or social media without a partner’s permission.

  • Possessiveness and forced PDA.

  • Pressuring to send explicit pictures or revenge porn, or using explicit photos as blackmail or sharing them without the owner’s consent.

  • Surveillance via social media.

  • Forcing use of drugs or alcohol in social situations.

  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity.

  • Coercion and pressure to have sex or behave a certain way.

  • Isolation from friends and family.

  • Threatening to “out” them for their gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • Physically inflicting pain, threatening to inflict harm, or acting violently.

Some of these signs may be difficult to spot, and experiencing even a few of them can be a red flag that a relationship may be abusive. All of these signs should be taken seriously, and it’s important to remember that no one deserves to experience abuse of any kind.

What can I do?

We believe in a world where no teen should experience an unsafe or unhealthy relationship. It can be frightening or difficult to imagine why someone might stay in a relationship that appears to be abusive, but there are many reasons why an individual might stay.

Ultimately, it is up to the person experiencing abuse to determine if they want to leave the relationship, but there are many things you can do to help them stay safe. If you think a friend or child may be experiencing abuse, let them know you’re concerned for their safety, and be ready to listen patiently and acknowledge their feelings. Center them - not their abusive partner - in your conversations, and be respectful of the decisions they make. If they are open to it, you can help them develop a safety plan, or a personalized plan that might help someone who is experiencing abuse avoid or best react in a dangerous situation. It can be scary to see someone you love in an abusive relationship, but understanding the signs of dating abuse and providing unconditional support to your loved one is a crucial way to support them.

La Casa has been working with teens directly for over 18 years. Our work is twofold: we work with teens to help them identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors in relationships, and we also use education and outreach to build networks amongst young people so they can support one another.

If you or a teen you know may be experiencing dating abuse, call La Casa’s toll-free and confidential Teen Crisis Line at 1-877-923-0700 for support. If you’re interested in learning more about dating abuse, you can click here to learn about our Teen Program, or you can schedule an educational presentation or workshop by emailing comed@lacasa.org.

*All dating abuse statistics are from Love is Respect.

As a community...

November 14, 2018

Throughout October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month), we came together as change makers to end domestic violence in San Francisco.

Over 2,000 individuals connected with La Casa through 120 outreach and education events.

90 volunteers logged 320 hours to support women and children fleeing violence in our city.

360 attendees, 22 corporate sponsors, 23 individual sponsors, and hundreds of in-kind donors helped us raise over $180,000 by getting redHOT* for change.

While our work isn’t done just yet, one thing is clear: the movement we are building together is stronger than any one individual, organization or moment. We hope that through the coming holiday season, and in the New Year, we will continue to stand together, undivided, against domestic violence. 

La Casa Named “2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit”

La Casa de las Madres has been named a “2017 TOP-RATED NONPROFIT” by GreatNonprofits Award based on Outstanding Online Reviews.

We are honored to be named a 2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit by our supporters — employees, volunteers, donors and community members. Our work in the San Francisco Bay Area is helping to build futures free from fear and abuse. It takes a community working together to create a world where violence is not tolerated. We are thankful to our community for recognizing our hard work and dedication.

In the last year we answered 8,881 hotline calls, provided shelter, safety and refuge to 435 child and adult survivors, and provided direct intervention via counseling, case management and advocacy to 4,434 survivors of domestic violence. Additionally, we reached over 3,544 adults, teens and professionals with educational workshops about domestic violence. 7,943 individuals engaged with La Casa via 342 outreach events.

We are proud of our capacity and reach,  and honored by this award from GreatNonprofits.

The complete list of 2017 Top Rated Nonprofits can be found here.

La Casa & CalWORKs

July 2018 is the 1 year mark of La Casa’s partnership with the San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA). Working in conjunction with HSA, La Casa provides tailored support to individuals that receive CalWORKs and are currently waived from the traditional welfare-to-work program due to domestic violence. Survivors in this program face barriers in their return to work and stable income. La Casa works to help these individuals heal emotionally and overcome financial obstacles that may have been created or exacerbated by an abusive partner and violence in the home. In our first year of this partnership we engaged with 169 survivors and their families.

Our co-located advocates are a key-piece of La Casa’s mission to increase survivors’ connection to care. While our programming has expanded to meet the evolving needs of survivors, we operate with the same high standards for client outcomes, and use the same survivor-centered, trauma-informed approach to our advocacy and support work. Clients across programs like CalWORKS have access to shelter, case management, therapy, support groups in two languages, economic empowerment programming, housing advocacy, court accompaniment and our 24 hour hotline.

La Casa x Pride

During the month of June, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Pride Month —we’re celebrating LGBTQ survivors and working to raise awareness of domestic violence within LGBTQ relationships.

It is a myth that domestic violence only occurs in heterosexual couples, and the victims are female. According to the Human Rights Commission, 44% percent of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by current or former intimate partner. 40% of gay men and 47% of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence.  Because of the myths and misconceptions about the rate of relationship violence in non-heterosexual relationships, the LGBT community often faces uniquely challenging barriers to accessing support.

Each survivor has unique needs and experiences that require individualized support. Across all La Casa services, whether it’s responding to callers 24/7/365 on our hotlines, providing individual counseling and advocacy, or supporting residents in our Emergency Shelter program, our staff and volunteers are trained to provide support around some of the more unique barriers and challenges an LGBTQ survivor may face. As a part of the 40 hour domestic violence counselor training, and through ongoing discussion and training, La Casa’s team engages in learning specific to supporting LGBTQ survivors.

As with all survivors, safety planning is a critical component—helping the person think about how to stay safe within the context of their situation, whether it’s when the violence escalates with their current partner, if encountering an abusive ex-partner on the street, or when creating an emergency bag in case fleeing becomes necessary. For LGBTQ survivors, safety planning can include other specific considerations. For instance, for a transgender survivor who is taking hormones as part of her transition from male to female, including hormones in her emergency bag may be important to her ability to maintain her identity as she seeks safety. Or, because LGBTQ communities can be small and tight-knit, with few gathering places, safety planning about where it’s now safe to go may be important to a survivor who has left their abusive partner. Advocates at La Casa support all clients in exploring their unique needs, thinking about their safety, and connecting with empowering resources and information.

For LGBTQ supportive domestic violence services call us 24/7/365 at 1-877-503-1850.