Teen Dating Violence Awareness: February Mental Health Memo

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

In 2021, the South Dakota Department of Health’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Summary reported that 7.5% of public high school students experienced physical dating violence within the last 12 months. In addition, the percentage of high school students that reported being forced by someone they were dating to do unwanted sexual things within the last 12 months more than doubled from 5.9% in 2019 to 14.6% in 2021.

There are many types of dating violence, signs to watch for, and ways to help. This is important information not only for teens but also their families, educators, and peers.

Dating abuse is someone’s attempt to gain power or control over another person and it can come in many forms:


  • Physical abuse - Intentional, unwanted contact with you or something close to your body, or any behavior that causes or has the intention of causing you injury.
  • Sexual abuse - Any behavior that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexual that they do not want to do.
  • Financial Abuse - Using money or how you choose to spend it as a way to control your actions or decisions (i.e., giving you presents or paying for things with the expectation of something in return).
  • Emotional & verbal abuse - Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, or isolation.
  • Digital abuse - The use of technology like texting and social media to humiliate, bully, harass, or intimidate. This behavior is often a form of verbal or emotional abuse conducted online.
  • Stalking - When someone follows, watches, or harasses you repeatedly, making you feel unsafe or afraid.

It can be hard to tell sometimes when a relationship goes from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive. Typical warning signs of abuse include:


  • Checking your phone, email, or social media accounts without your permission
  • Putting you down frequently, especially in front of others
  • Isolating you from friends or family (physically, financially, or emotionally)
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive outburst, temper, or mood swings
  • Any form of physical harm
  • Possessiveness or controlling behavior
  • Pressuring you or forcing you to have sex

It’s not always easy to know what to do or how to respond when someone you love is experiencing dating abuse. If you have questions about how to help or about your own relationship, you can call 1.866.331.9474, text LOVEIS to 2252 or chat online at https://www.loveisrespect.org/ to receive immediate, confidential assistance. It’s not just a toll-free phone line, but the first interactive dating abuse website, staffed by trained advocates, where teens can write and get immediate assistance in a one-on-one private chat room.

To read previous editions of the Mental Health Memo visit https://dss.sd.gov/keyresources/news.aspx#mhmemo .