Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Teen Dating Violence CoverTeen Dating Violence

Tweens and teens are experiencing disturbing levels of violence in their dating relationships, but only half recognize the warning signs of a dangerous relationship. A 2008 study commissioned by Liz Claiborne and loveisrespect.org found:

  • 69 percent of all teens who had sex by age 14 said they have gone through one or more types of abuse in a relationship.
  • 40 percent of the youngest tweens, those between the ages of 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships, and nearly one-in-ten (9 percent) say their friends have had sex.
  • Nearly three-in-four tweens (72 percent) say boyfriend/girlfriend relationships usually begin at age 14 or younger.
  • More than one-in-three 11-12 year olds (37percent) say they have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.
  • One-in-five between the ages of 13 and 14 say their friends are victims of dating violence, such as getting struck, hit or slapped by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and nearly half of all tweens in relationships say they know friends who are verbally abused.
  • One-in-five 13-14 year olds in relationships (20 percent) say they know friends and peers who've been struck in anger (kicked, hit, slapped, or punched) by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Only half of all tweens (51 percent) claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship.
  • In addition, significant numbers of teens (15-18) are experiencing emotional and mental abuse as well as violence when dating; it's even more prevalent among teens who've had sex by 14.

Abuse in a dating relationship can be confusing and frightening at any age. But for teenagers, who are just beginning to date and develop romantic relationships, this abuse is especially difficult. 

When the abuse is physical or sexual, it can be easy to identify. Emotional abuse is much harder to recognize, but no less damaging.

At the 2008 Summer Meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, Attorneys General from across the nation passed a resolution encouraging schools to develop teen dating violence awareness curriculum. The Washington State Attorney General's office already has a number of resources available to help, including:

This website was designed to help teens and the people who care about them understand relationship abuse. It includes information on: 

  • Safety plans
  • Communication skills
  • Assertiveness
  • Conflict resolution and emotion management
  • Faulty relationship and gender role expectations 

Schools, parents, teachers, and community organizations all can help identify dating violence and provide support for abuse victims. But teens themselves must also learn how to reach out and help friends who are victims of relationship abuse.

In partnership with the Washington State Medical Association, the Attorney General's Office has incorporated highlights from this website into a brochure. Please feel free to download, re-produce and distribute.

We hope the website and brochure will help you learn more about the issues surrounding teen dating violence. The resources and information are a first step in the education on this important issue.