Other Youth Topics


  1. Youth Topics
  2. Dating Violence Prevention
  3. Legal Responses to Teen Dating Violence

Legal Responses to Teen Dating Violence

Not only do more teens than adults keep dating violence a secret, the majority of teen victims never obtain mental health services, seek protection in shelters, or pursue legal help, such as cases against abusers and protection orders.1 These findings are exacerbated for male survivors, who are more than two times less likely than girls to seek help and/or report. 2 When teens do seek help regarding dating violence victimization, they typically turn to peers rather than turning to adults or going through a formal reporting process.

The lack of teens’ help-seeking behavior is particularly concerning given the fact that youth who are victimized by and exposed to violence have a higher likelihood of future delinquent behavior and involvement with the juvenile justice system than those who are not. 3 Research has proven that the presence of supportive peer and adult allies, strong and open avenues of communication where youth feel comfortable expressing their issues, and enrollment in schools that address not only the academic needs of youth but also their social and emotional needs all serve as protective factors against youth delinquency. 4 Therefore, receiving informal and formal support following exposure to teen dating violence could serve as a significant protective factor against future violence and delinquency for youth.

Schools and youth-serving organizations should consider implementing accessible, uncomplicated, straightforward formalized reporting mechanisms to increase the number of youth who receive help. 5 Establishing peer support networks to spread awareness of dating violence prevention efforts and offer support to survivors is also recommended. 6

Access issues contribute to the lower rate of pursuing legal recourse among teens. Such barriers include requirements related to age (e.g., protective orders are not available for minors), relationship status (e.g., limiting the definition of domestic abuse to abuse between partners who are married, cohabitate, or have children together), and parental consent (e.g., not allowing access to those teens who will not or cannot tell their parents about the abuse).7 For a description of state legal responses to teen dating violence, go to the nonprofit group Break the Cycle’s 2010 State Law Report Cards: A National Survey of Teen Dating Violence Laws.


1 Break the Cycle, 2008; Lachman, Zweig, Dank & Yahner, 2019
2 Thornberry, 2008; Cuevas et al., 2013
3 Risk & Protective Factors, n. d
4 Lachman, Zweig, Dank, & Yahner, 2019
5 Lachman, Zweig, Dank, & Yahner, 2019
6 Break the Cycle, 2010; Saperstein, 2005

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