The Women’s Community Partners With Area Schools to Educate Youth on Teen Dating Violence

Written by Jane E. Graham Jennings

You may be surprised to learn that violence in relationships can start at a young age… But it’s estimated that 1 in 3 teens experience abuse in their dating relationships.

Research finds that boys and girls are both perpetrators of abusive behaviors in relationships, though the abuse tends to be physical violence from boys to girls and verbal abuse from girls to boys. Gay, queer, and gender non-confirming youth also experience abuse in their relationships.

teen dating violence statistic for Marathon County

This data shows that we need to be talking with our young people about respect in relationships and what healthy dating means.

Teen dating can be a stressful time both for parents and for teenagers. Parents may feel that their child is “slipping away” from them. And if they see their son or daughter in a relationship that is not healthy and try to talk to the child about it, it seems to push the child further away or the child may respond with angry outbursts and even defend the abusive partner.

Compounding this is the fact that teens often feel as though adults don’t understand what they’re going through or that their feelings are simply disregarded by adults as not being real. But for teens, what they feel is very real and they believe they are very much in love with their partners. In fact, oftentimes, these relationships are the center of the teen’s world.

There are also social and peer influences and pressures that lead teens to believe that what is happening in their relationship is “love.” However, jealousy is often romanticized and teens don’t recognize that it can be the beginning of controlling behaviors that lead to unhealthy dating.

young couple

Teens are at a stage in life when they are trying to become independent and move away from the protection of their parents. A fear of losing independence may prevent them from seeking the help of a parent,  so they often don’t ask for help or tell parents what’s going on.

That’s why it’s so important to have conversations early and often with young people about what healthy dating means.

For teens, some early warning signs that your date may become abusive include:

  • Shows extreme jealousy
  • Shows hypersensitivity
  • Exhibits controlling behavior
  • Believes in rigid sex roles
  • Has unpredictable mood swings
  • Blames others for his/her problems or feelings
  • Uses alcohol or drugs
  • Is cruel to animals or children
  • Displays explosive anger
  • Is verbally abusive
  • Isolates you from friends and family
  • Has abused former partners
  • Uses force during an argument
  • Threatens violence

For adults, some common clues that may indicate a teen is experiencing dating abuse include the following:

  • Physical signs of injury
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Truancy, dropping out of school
  • Pregnancy
  • Failing grades
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Indecision
  • Isolation
  • Changes in mood or personality

The Women’s Community in Wausau is a resource for young people who are experiencing abuse in their relationships. Our staff are able to provide information and support to young people who are experiencing abuse or who are questioning what is happening in their relationships.


For over 15 years, The Women’s Community has partnered with the Wausau School District to provide prevention education via a developed curriculum to all 9th– and 10th-grade Health students.

Presentation at Wausau West High School about healthy relationships led by The Women’s Community staff in February 2020. (Photo courtesy of Jane E. Graham Jennings.)

The Women’s Community also has a partnership with the Alternative High School at Northcentral Technical College to provide drop-in time when an advocate is available to meet with students, and we provide a support group. We are able to provide prevention education to other schools upon request (for example, one ongoing partnership is with the Edgar School District), and we provide advocacy to youth who are referred to our agency.

Additionally, as part of our contracted services with Marathon County Government, we are part of the Sexting Diversion Program — a collaborative effort with the Marathon County Department of Social Services, Wausau Police Department, Marathon County District Attorney’s Office, and Compass Counseling of Wausau. The program was designed both to intervene in sexting activity that has already taken place and to prevent further behavior from occurring. The Family Advocate of The Women’s Community works with referrals in a group setting, if possible, or one-on-one to cover the dynamics of consent, healthy and unhealthy relationships, and power and control and where sexting behaviors fall in those categories and on those spectrums.

The Women’s Community is the only agency in Marathon County that has specialized training to respond and provide support services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking. We serve all of Marathon County, and all services are confidential and are provided free of charge.

For more information about teen dating violence, I invite you to contact The Women’s Community at 715-842-5663 or

TWC staff wearing orange for teen dating awareness month
Staff at The Women’s Community wearing orange in support of Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month. (Photo courtesy of Jane E. Graham Jennings.)

The Women’s Community:

We Listen.  We Support.  We Transform Lives.

Jane_E._Graham_JenningsJane E. Graham Jennings

Executive Director  |  The Women’s Community, Inc.

Jane E. Graham Jennings has worked at The Women’s Community for over 20 years serving in the role of Executive Director for all but 3 of those years. Jane has dedicated her life to giving voice to those who feel voiceless due to various forms of violence and oppression. She started her career of anti-violence work in college, where she earned a degree in Psychology. She has been certified through the Department of Justice as a Law Enforcement trainer to train officers on understanding victims of domestic and sexual violence. She was appointed by Governor Walker to serve on the statewide Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. She was also appointed by Attorney General Brad Schimel to serve on the Wisconsin Crime Victims’ Rights Board. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoors activities — particularly hunting and fishing — with her husband, Christ.  Email Jane E. Graham Jennings.

You might also like…

Marathon_County_LogoPlease email our Editorial Board with your comments, suggestions, and article ideas.

And if you spot a typo or an inaccuracy, please contact us so we can fix it. Thanks!