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Abusive Relationships

Healthy Relationships = Respect & Trust

Healthy relationships involve respect, trust, and consideration for the other person. Abusive relationships don’t have these qualities. Instead, they involve mistreatment, disrespect, intense jealousy, controlling behavior, or physical violence. 

Who Can Help

What Is Abuse?

Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Physical abuse means any form of violence, such as hitting, punching, pulling hair, and kicking. Abuse can happen in both dating relationships and friendships.

Emotional abuse can be difficult to recognize. Sometimes people mistake intense jealousy and possessiveness as a sign of intense feelings of love. It may even seem flattering at first. Threats, intimidation, putdowns, controlling behavior, and betrayal are all harmful forms of emotional abuse that can really hurt — not just during the time it's happening, but long after too.

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, guy or girl. It's never right to be forced into any type of sexual experience that you don't want.

The first step in getting out of an abusive relationship is to realize that you have the right to be treated with respect and not be physically or emotionally harmed by another person.

Signs of Abusive Relationships

Important warning signs that you may be involved in an abusive relationship include when someone:

  • harms you physically in any way, including slapping, pushing, grabbing, shaking, smacking, kicking, and punching
  • tries to control different aspects of your life, such as how you dress, who you hang out with, and what you say
  • frequently humiliates you or makes you feel unworthy (for example, if a partner puts you down but tells you that he or she loves you)
  • threatens to harm you, or to self-harm, if you leave the relationship
  • twists the truth to make you feel you are to blame for your partner's actions
  • demands to know where you are at all times
  • constantly becomes jealous or angry when you want to spend time with your friends

Unwanted sexual advances that make you uncomfortable are also red flags. Saying things like "If you loved me, you would . . ." is a warning of possible abuse, and a sign that your partner is trying to manipulate you. A statement like this is controlling and is used by people who are only concerned about getting what they want — not caring about what you want. Trust your intuition. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

Signs That a Friend Is Being Abused

In addition to the signs listed above, here are some signs a friend might be being abused by a partner:

  • unexplained bruises, broken bones, sprains, or marks
  • excessive guilt or shame for no apparent reason
  • secrecy or withdrawal from friends and family
  • avoidance of school or social events with excuses that don't seem to make any sense

A person who is being abused needs someone to hear and believe him or her. Maybe your friend is afraid to tell a parent because that will bring pressure to end the relationship. People who are abused often feel like it's their fault — that they "asked for it" or that they don't deserve any better. But abuse is never deserved. Help your friend understand that it is not his or her fault. Your friend does not deserve to be mistreated. The person who is being abusive has a serious problem and needs professional help.

A friend who is being abused needs you to listen and support without judging. It takes courage to admit being abused. Your friend also needs your encouragement to get help immediately from an adult, such as a parent, family member, or health professional.

How to Help Yourself

If you think you're in an abusive relationship, it's time to get out of it. Confide in someone, such as a parent, trusted adult, health provider, or friend. Let them support you and help you end the relationship and stay safe.

If you have been physically harmed, get medical attention or call the police. Get help from a counselor or therapist if you feel confused or unsure of whether you're in an abusive relationship.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: February 2017

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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