Abuse in teenage relationships

If you're in a relationship and you feel unhappy about or frightened by the way your partner treats you, you don't have to put up with it.

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It can be hard to know what's "normal" in a relationship. It can take time to get to know each other and discover what works for you both.

But there's one thing that's for sure: abusive or violent behaviour is not acceptable. If it's happening to you, it's OK to ask for help and advice.

Partner abuse can happen to anyone of any age, culture or religion. It can happen to boys or girls, but it's much more likely to happen to girls. Young people in same-sex relationships are also more likely to be affected.

For more information on what abuse is and how to get help, read This is ABUSE

Tink Palmer, a social worker who works with people who have been abused, says: "No-one should have to put up with violence in any form. If it's happening to you, talk to a person you trust, such as a parent, a trusted adult or a friend. Don't hold it in – talk to someone."

What is abuse in a relationship?

Abuse can involve physical violence, such as hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping or pressuring you into sex. But there are other forms of abuse, too.

Emotional and verbal abuse can involve your boyfriend or girlfriend:

  • saying things that make you feel small, whether you're alone or in front of other people
  • pressuring you to do things you don't want to do, including sexual things
  • checking up on you all the time to find out where you are and who you're with – for example, texting or calling you a lot if you're out with your friends
  • threatening to hurt you or someone close to you, including pets

As well as happening when you're together, emotional and verbal abuse can happen on the phone or on the internet.

Behaviour like this is not about love. It's about someone controlling you and making you behave how they want. People who abuse a partner verbally or emotionally may turn to violence later on in the relationship. This kind of controlling behaviour is a big warning sign.

Behaviour like this is not OK, even if some people tell you it is. Violence and abuse in relationships is not normal, it is not "just the way things are" or "messing around". It's a serious issue.

Being hurt emotionally and physically can harm your self-esteem and make you feel anxious, depressed or ill. Young people who are abused can also develop eating disordersproblems with alcohol and drugs, and be at risk of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy from sexual abuse.

Getting help for abuse

If you're in a controlling or abusive relationship and you want help, don't be scared to talk to someone about it. Remember, it's not your fault, no matter what anyone says, and it is far better to talk about it with someone. It doesn't matter if you've been drinking or what you've been wearing. There is no excuse.

It can be difficult to find the right words to ask for help. Try asking someone whether you can talk to them about something. Tell them you need some help or that something is happening and you don't know what to do. 

There are several people you might talk to, such as:

  • an adult mentor or a favourite teacher at school
  • your mum, dad or another trusted adult – perhaps a friend's mum
  • an adviser on a helpline such as ChildLine (0800 1111)
  • a GP or nurse
  • a friend

And remember, try again if you don't get the response you think you need. If you are in immediate danger, call 999.

If you think a friend is being abused

If you think a friend might be experiencing abuse, talk to them. "Keep calm, and don't be judgmental or condemning," says Palmer. "It can be difficult to talk to a friend, but try. If you're concerned, don't worry that you might be wrong, worry that you might be right."

Try asking your friend if you can talk about something. Tell them you're worried about them and ask them whether everything is OK. Listen to them and let them know that nobody has to put up with abuse.

If they have been hurt, offer to go to the doctor with them. Have the number of a useful helpline, such as ChildLine on 0800 1111, ready to give to them.

Your friend might be angry or upset with you for a while, but they will know you care and you might have helped them realise they can get help.

If you're abusing someone

If you're abusing your partner or you're worried that you might, you can call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or talk to a trusted adult.

"Recognising that your behaviour is wrong is the first step to stopping it. But you may need help to stop," says Palmer.

Sometimes the things that cause abusive behaviour, such as feelings about things that happened in the past, can be very powerful. "We can't always stop things on our own, or straight away," says Palmer. "We do need help, which is why it's important to talk to someone."

Page last reviewed: 16/07/2014

Next review due: 16/07/2017


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