Abusive Romantic Relationships
If you are in a relationship, look at the list below and see how many of the items apply to your and/or your partner. If two or more items apply to your relationship, you could be in an abusive relationship – or you could potentially be in a relationship that may become abusive.
- Characteristics of Your Partner
- Initial Signs of an Abusive Relationship
- Risks of an Abusive Relationship
- How do you end abuse?
- Abuse by an Adult
- Healing and Self-Care
Characteristics of Your Partner
Are you going out with someone who:
- Is jealous and possessive; won't let you have friends; checks up on you and won't accept breaking up?
- Tries to control you by being bossy, giving orders, making all the decisions, and not taking your opinions seriously?
- Puts you down in front of friends or tells you that you would be nothing without him or her?
- Scares you?
- Makes you worry about his or her reactions to things you say or do?
- Threatens you?
- Uses or owns guns or other weapons?
- Is violent?
- Has a history of fighting, losing his or her temper quickly or bragging about mistreating others?
- Grabs, pushes, shoves, or hits you?
- Pressures you for sex or is forceful or scary about sex?
- Gets too serious about the relationship too fast?
- Abuses alcohol and/or other drugs and pressures you to take them?
- Has a history of failed relationships and blames the other person for all the problems?
- Makes your family and friends uneasy and concerned for your safety?
- Makes you feel like you need to apologize to yourself or others for his or her behavior when he or she treats you badly?
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Initial Signs of an Abusive Relationship
Sometimes, the initial signs of an abusive relationship are not obvious. You may be worried about a friend but not see any actual signs of abuse. Instead, you might ask yourself the following questions about your friend's relationship.
If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, check out the section on talking to a friend (found on this page), as your friend may be in an abusive relationship.
- Does your friend show physical signs of injury?
- Is he or she doing worse in school, or has dropped out completely?
- Has he or she changed his or her personal style?
- Has he or she lost confidence, and does he or she have difficulty making decisions?
- Has he or she quit his or her normal after-school activities?
- Has he or she started using drugs or alcohol?
- Does he or she have mood swings or emotional outbursts?
- Has he or she isolated himself or herself from friends and family?
- Has she become pregnant?
- Does he or she apologize for his or her significant other's abusive behavior?
- Does he or she seem overly worried about upsetting or angering his or her significant other?
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Risks of an Abusive Relationship
Once you recognize that you're in an abusive relationship, it can be difficult to determine what to do next. Depending on how long the abuse has been going on, you may feel isolated from your old friends and unable to turn to anyone for help. However, there are resources available.
The first thing you need to think about when you realize that your relationship is abusive is how to get out of the relationship. Abuse tends to escalate, so the longer you remain in the relationship, the more you are in danger.
Being in an abusive relationship also has serious consequences for your mental and physical health. The list below includes some of those risks.
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Bruises or broken bones
- Mistrust of self
- Mistrust of others
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Permanent injury
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How do you end abuse?
Ending an abusive relationship can also put you in danger, however, so it's important to turn to a trusted adult or friend for assistance first. Your parents, teachers, religious leaders, or a school counselor may be able to help you with this process. Find someone you trust, and talk to them about what has been happening.
When you end the relationship, do so in a place where there are other people so that your abuser cannot further abuse you, or end the relationship over the phone or via e-mail. Let the adult you've talked to know when you're going to end it so she or he can support you before and after the breakup.
Sometimes an abuser will say that you somehow caused the abuse. Don't be swayed by this. No matter what happened in your relationship, you did not cause the abuse. No one asks to be abused; the abuser chose to abuse you. Everyone chooses how to respond to other people's actions, and abuse is never an appropriate response.
Abusers may also promise to change. But that does not necessarily mean he or she will change in reality. You should be aware of the cycle of abuse.
After the abuse, many abusers will give their partners presents and promise that the abuse will never happen again. However, after these presents and promises, tension often begins to build again, and at some point, the abuser again hurts his or her partner.
Promises that the abuse will stop are simply a stage in the cycle. Abusers can change, but it takes a lot of hard work and counseling to create these changes. It isn't worth it to remain in the relationship while the abuser works out the personal problems that are causing the abuse.
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Abuse by an Adult
Unfortunately, many cases of abuse involve an adult abusing a teen or child. If an adult abuses you, find another adult you can trust and tell them what has happened. No one has the right to hit you or to touch you sexually against your wishes.
Just because someone is an adult or has authority over you does not mean that they have the right to abuse you in any way. If an adult does abuse you, remember that it is not your fault, and you did not do anything to deserve the abuse.
Almost any adult who hears a teen say he or she was abused will listen, but if the first person you talk to doesn't believe what you say, keep telling people until someone does!
School counselors are often trained to deal with these issues, so if you don't feel comfortable going to a parent or if a parent is abusing you, a counselor might be someone you feel comfortable turning to.
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Healing and Self-Care
In an abusive situation, you can be hurt in a variety of ways. Some of these ways are physical and may need physical treatment, but many of them are psychological and social. You may have lower self-esteem because of the abuse or have worries about the possibility of future abuse.
Sometimes people who have been abused find it hard to trust others because their trust has been betrayed by someone close to them. Talking to a counselor can be very helpful for sorting out your feelings after the abuse has ended or for determining how to end the abuse.
You might also worry about your safety after you end a relationship with the abuser. If the abuser continues to call or e-mail you, you could try having your parents screen the call or block the e-mail address.
In some serious cases, you might consider getting a restraining order, which is an official legal document to prevent the abuser from contacting you again. The easiest way to do this is to talk to a trusted adult who can help you through the process.
If you are in school with your abuser and find it difficult to be in the same class or are placed in a group with him or her, you could speak to the teacher or principal or have a parent call the school. Remember that you have the right to be free of abuse!
Another issue that sometimes occurs after an abusive relationship ends is feeling isolated from former friends. One tactic of an abuser is to isolate his or her partner from previous friends and acquaintances.. When the relationship ends, you may feel that you've lost your former place.
Sometimes it can help to join clubs or extracurricular activities; these help keep you busy and can be a source of new friends. You might also try talking to some of your old friends and explaining as much about the situation as you feel comfortable. Many of them will probably be understanding, and they can provide much needed support in the time after your breakup.
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