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About Abuse

Information for Teens

Information for Teens

December 29, 2015

Dating violence (or relationship abuse) is a pattern of controlling behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend. Please visit www.loveisrespect.org or www.thatsnotcool.com for more information.

General info for teens

What is dating violence?

Dating violence (or relationship abuse) is a pattern of over-controlling behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend. You may experience dating violence even if you are not being physically abused.  Dating violence can take many forms, including mental/emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, and more.  You can read about these different forms of abuse on our domestic violence page.  Dating violence can occur in both casual dating situations and serious, long-tem relationships.

How does teen dating violence compare to adult domestic violence?

Teen dating violence is similar to adult domestic violence in several ways:

  • Both teen dating violence and adult domestic violence affect people from all socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and religious groups;
  • Both occur in heterosexual relationships as well as LGBTQ relationships;
  • Both tend to show patterns of repeated violence, which escalate over time;
  • Both tend to display violent and abusive behavior interchanged with apologies and promises to change;
  • Both tend to show increased danger for the victim when s/he is trying to terminate the abusive relationship; and
  • Both men and women, or girls and boys, can be the abusers or the victims.

I think I am being abused. What should I do?

Checklist: Am I being abused?

Many people don't recognize that they are in an abusive relationship. They don't realize how they have gradually changed because of the abuse.

Are you a victim of dating violence? Answer the questions below. If you answer yes to even one of them, you may be in an abusive relationship, or your relationship is likely to become abusive. Abuse isn't just hitting. It's yelling, threatening, name-calling, saying things like, "I'll kill myself if you leave me," obsessive phone calling, emailing, IMing or texting, and extreme possessiveness.

Does your boyfriend/girlfriend:

  • Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
  • Act jealous or possessive?
  • Put you down or criticize you?
  • Try to control where you go, what you wear or what you do?
  • Text or IM you excessively?
  • Blame you for the hurtful things s/he says or does?
  • Threaten to kill or hurt you or himself/herself if you leave him/her?
  • Try to stop you from seeing or talking to friends and family?
  • Try to force you to have sexual contact before you're ready?
  • Do s/he hit, slap, push or kick you?

What might happen to me if I'm in an abusive relationship?

Possible effects of being in an abusive relationship include:

  • loss of appetite;
  • headaches;
  • nervousness;
  • weight loss;
  • bruises or broken bones;
  • sadness;
  • self-blame;
  • confusion;
  • anxiety;
  • guilt;
  • shame;
  • mistrust of self;
  • mistrust of others;
  • depression;
  • fear;
  • feelings of worthlessness;
  • terror;
  • permanent injury;
  • death;
  • suicide. 

Note: Our Danger Assessment page lists certain abusive behaviors, which indicate that a victim is at a greater risk of being seriously injured or killed by an abuser.

Should I tell an adult? Can't I just handle this on my own?

Talking about problems within your relationship or sharing the fact that someone is abusing you is never easy, especially when you're talking to an adult. It's normal to want to solve your problems on your own or with your friends. It's normal to not want to get anyone "in trouble," including the person abusing you. If you are the friend of someone being abused, it's normal not to want to betray your friend's trust by revealing the abuse to an adult.

Sometimes, however, there are problems that are too big to handle without help, and it can be a big relief to involve a trusted adult. The advocates at loveisrespect.org can help you figure out when you should talk to an adult, who you should talk to, and what to say.

How do I end the relationship?

Unfortunately, leaving an abusive relationship does not mean that the danger has ended.  Sometimes, you may need to involve the legal system such as the police or the courts.  For example, you may be able to get a restraining order from civil court (without involving the police) to keep your abusive boyfriend or girlfriend away from you.  In some situations, the abusive person may even have to switch schools in order to follow the terms of the restraining order.  You can read more about how a restraining order can help you on our Restraining Orders page - just enter your state in the drop-down menu to read information that is specific to your state.  In some states, your parent or guardian may have to file the order for you - in other states, you can file it on your own. 

Also, the website loveisrespect.org has some tips on how to break up safely and things to think about when ending an abusive relationship.

My boyfriend/girlfriend is writing mean things on my Facebook page. What should I do?

Many people have profiles on Facebook or other websites and use these social networking sites to stay connected to friends, post pictures and share information. If you are in an abusive relationship, the abuser may be using your Facebook page in harmful ways against you. S/he may be stalking you, using your password to log in as you and post messages, or writing mean or harmful things on your “wall.”  S/he may also be spreading pictures or hurtful comments about you to others by using Facebook or other social networking sites. It may be a good idea to deactivate your account for awhile until you feel safe again, but if you plan on staying on Facebook or other sites, go to our Safety with Social Media page for information on what steps you can take.

Helping a friend

How can I tell if my friend is in an abusive relationship?

It can be hard to know for sure if someone is being abused, but we list some behaviors below that may indicate abuse. If you can answer "yes" to one or more of these questions, your friend might be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.

  • Does your friend show frequent physical signs of injury? Does s/he give an explanation for the injuries that doesn't seem to make sense?
  • Is s/he doing worse in school, or has dropped out completely?
  • Has s/he changed his/her clothing or makeup style?
  • Has s/he lost confidence or have difficulty making decisions?
  • Has s/he quit his/her normal after-school activities?
  • Has s/he started using drugs or alcohol?
  • Does s/he suddenly have mood swings or emotional outbursts?
  • Has s/he isolated himself/herself from friends and family?
  • Does s/he apologize for his/her girlfriend's/boyfriend's abusive behavior? Or take the blame for it?
  • Does s/he seem overly worried about upsetting or angering his/her boyfriend/girlfriend?

How can I find help on talking to my friend who may be in an abusive relationship?

If you suspect a friend is in an abusive relationship, you might want to try talking to him/her when no one else is around in a place where you think s/he will feel safe. The loveisrespect.org website has a list of things to keep in mind when you're talking to a friend who may be experiencing dating violence. You might want to check out their website or contact them for help before talking to your friend.

Legal information on teen dating violence

What is a restraining order and what does it do?

A restraining order (also known as a protective order, order of protection, or many other names) is a court order requiring that your boyfriend or girlfriend, past or present, stop "abusing" you.  The order may also state that your boyfriend or girlfriend cannot contact you, has to stay away from you, and may include many other protections.  The requirements for getting a restraining order, exactly what protections you can get from a restraining order, and how "abuse" is defined are different in each state. In addition, not all states allow minors to get a restraining order on their own without an adult's help. Check our Restraining Orders pages for your state on this site to find out more. 


Am I eligible for a restraining order even though I am under 18?

In many states, you can apply for a restraining order even if you are under 18 but you may need an adult (usually a parent or legal guardian) to file the order on your behalf.  Other states allow minors to file on their own without involving a parent or another adult.  Most states that allow minors to apply for restraining orders on their own require that you are at least 16 years old. A few, however, let minors of any age, or sometimes minors 12 or older, go to court without an adult.  In the Restraining Orders section of our website, in every state we have the question "Can a minor apply for a restraining order?"  In many states, we also have the question "Can I apply for a restraining order against a minor?"  Click on those questions in your state to find out if you can apply on your own or if you need a parent/guardian.

Even if your state requires an adult to assist you in applying for an order, but you don't want to get your parent/guardian involved or s/he will not help you file for the order, you may still have some other options.  In some states, the law allows what is referred to as a "next friend" to apply for you, which could be a trusted adult other than a parent/guardian.  In other states, a judge may appoint what is called a "guardian ad litem," which is  someone to represent your interests during the litigation (court proceeding).  It could be a lawyer or a non-lawyer.  In some states a judge must approve of the adult who you choose to go to court with you instead of your parents (called a guardian ad litem).

For help, you may want to contact a domestic violence organization or a lawyer.  There are free legal services available through different organizations and many states have specific organizations that represent only teens.  Another idea is that you may want to call the clerk of the court in your county and ask what the procedure is for a minor filing an order and if s/he can file alone.  Go to the Places that Help tab at the top of this page to find a list of state and local domestic violence programs, free legal services, and courthouse locations and contact information for your state.  To ask someone at WomensLaw.org a specific question, you can go to our Email Hotline.

How do I file for a restraining order?

Nuesta página de Órdenes de Restricción en el estado en el que vive explica paso a paso las pautas a seguir para obtener una orden de restricción en el estado en el que vive.  Puede encontrar la dirección para su corte local en nuestra página Tribunales.

Finding help

Where can I find help?

A great place to start if you need help is with The National Teen Dating Violence Helpline.  You can chat with an advocate online through their website www.loveisrespect.org.  You may prefer to call their helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 TTY.

There are also lots of resources for teen dating violence listed on our website, WomensLaw.org on our National Organizations - Teens page.