Ahead of a new school year, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is working to raise awareness of the issue of teen dating violence (TDV).

Domestic violence in general soared throughout the world under COVID-19 restrictions, prompting calls for a “ceasefire” from United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

However, TDV is often overlooked as an issue, said Stacey Padilla, a youth services and community education coordinator with the Philadelphia-based non-profit Congreso.


Throughout the month of August, Padilla presented three free webinars on domestic violence that were co-sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Youth and Child Protection (OCYP).

The final session, held on Aug. 18, addressed TDV, which affects at least one out of three teens who have been in a dating relationship.

Physical assaults, pressure to engage in sexual activity and constant belittling are all forms of TDV, said Padilla.

Displays of extreme jealousy, isolation from friends and family, and constant checking of cell phones and social networks are additional ways in which TDV can manifest itself, she said.

While intimate partner violence in general is vastly underreported, teen victims are even more likely to keep silent, since many adults mistakenly assume “they’re too young for ‘serious abuse,’” said Padilla.

Stacey Padilla, a youth services and community education coordinator with the Philadelphia-based non-profit Congreso, shows an example of teen dating violence during an Aug. 18 webinar co-sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection. (Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office for Child and Youth Protection / Congreso / Screen image from Zoom)

As a result, physical aggression among teens can be dismissed as “play-fighting” and “name-calling” as “a game,” she said.

Similarly, adults may conclude “it’s ‘normal’ for teens to use social media” to discredit or control their partner, but TDV can occur online as well as in person, said Padilla.

OCYP director Leslie Davila noted that modern reliance on cell and internet communications, which has intensified due to COVID-19, means that both teens and adults “are never fully out of the reach of their abusers,” Davila said.

“It’s not as simple as turning off your phone when the phone is our main source of keeping connected to family, getting help and staying informed, especially during these challenging times,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), effects of TDV include depression, anxiety, antisocial behaviors, substance abuse and suicide, as well as increased risk for further victimization and perpetration.

Adults can help prevent TDV by themselves modeling healthy relationships built on mutual respect and appropriate boundaries, said Padilla.

She stressed that teens experiencing TDV should not be punished or criticized, but instead believed and connected to supportive resources such as LoveIsRespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

In some cases, protection from abuse (PFA) orders can assist victims of TDV, said Padilla, but cautioned that minors themselves can only file for them with the aid of an adult.

Minors committing TDV can have the orders taken out against them if a parent or guardian is present when the judge decides to issue a PFA, she said. Minors with children of their own can independently file for a PFA to protect their children.

Above all, education remains key to preventing TDV. Davila said that as part of OCYP’s Safe Environment lessons, a “Teen Talk” curriculum specifically addresses dating violence.

Such guidance is essential, said Padilla.

“Adolescence is a tender time when people need some non-judgmental guidance to help them see where their boundaries are,” she said.


If you are experiencing teen dating violence or domestic violence and are in immediate danger, call 911.

To reach Love Is Respect (the teen dating violence project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline), call 866-331-9474 (TTY: 1-800-787-3224) or text loveis to 866-331-9474.

Persons wishing to report an allegation of sexual abuse should contact immediately their local law enforcement agency and/or the archdiocesan Office of Investigations at 1-888-930-9010. Mandated reporters are required to call ChildLine, which is staffed by the Department of Public Welfare at 1-800-932-0313.

To report a violation of The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries, contact the archdiocesan Office of Investigations.

If you need support or assistance, victim services and referrals are available through the Victim Assistance Office of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at 1-888-800-8780 or www.ChildYouthProtection.org.

The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service (CBAR) has been established as a result of the ongoing commitment of the Catholic bishops of the United States to carry out “Vos Estis Lux Mundi.” The hotline will accept reports of abuse by Catholic bishops or their interference in the civil or church investigations via phone or the internet to a third-party entity. Individuals may go to ReportBishopAbuse.org to file a report or call (800) 276-1562.

Additional assistance is available through the following:


National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-7223 (800-787-3224 TTY)
24/7 support in more than 200 languages

VAWnet (National Resource Center on Domestic Violence)
Hotline: 866-723-3014

Catholics for Family Peace
National Catholic School of Social Service, The Catholic University of America


Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline
866-732-3014 (24/7 support)

Congreso de Latinos Unidos Latina Domestic Violence Program
216 W. Somerset Street, Philadelphia, PA 19133
215- 763-8870 ext. 1353

Lutheran Settlement House
1340 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125

Valley Youth House
1500 Sansom Street #300, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Women Against Abuse
100 South Broad Street, Ste 501, Philadelphia, PA 19110

Bucks County
Various resources:

Chester County
Domestic Violence Center of Chester County

Delaware County
Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County

Montgomery County
Domestic Violence Legal Network