Dating Abuse

Dating abuse might not be something that everybody talks about, but that doesn’t mean that it’s uncommon.  Consider this:

  • 1 in 4 teen girls say they have been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner.
  • 1 in 4 teens who have been in a serious relationship say that a boyfriend or girlfriend has tried to prevent them from spending time with friends or family; the same number have been pressured to only spend time with their partner.
  • Half of teen girls who have experienced sexual pressure report they are afraid the relationship would end if they did not give in.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 girls who have been in a relationship (23%) reported going further sexually than they wanted as a result of pressure.

Know the Signs

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize abuse for what it is. Relationships are full of powerful—and sometimes overwhelming—emotions and it can be tough to take a step back and evaluate the situation. You may not have a black eye, but that doesn’t mean your partner hasn’t been abusive to you. Dating abuse comes in a lot of different forms, and doesn’t always leave marks visible to the eye. So how can you tell if you (or a friend) are a victim of dating abuse?  It might help to understand the issue a little better and know some of the warning signs.

People can experience several different types of abuse. These can include:

  • Physical abuse: any intentional use of physical force meant to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking, or using a weapon.
  • Emotional abuse: non-physical behavior such as threats, insults, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, or stalking.
  • Sexual abuse: any action that forces undesired sexual behavior on you by another person. This includes making you do anything you don’t want to do sexually, refusing to have safe sex, aggressively pressuring you to go further than you want to sexually, or making you feel badly about yourself sexually.

Dating abuse isn't always isolated to one type of abusive. For example, if your partner is physically abusive, it's likely that they're also mentally and emotionally abuvise.

Not sure if you’re in an unhealthy relationship? Take a step back and ask yourself: Does your boyfriend or girlfriend...

  • Pressure you to make the relationship very serious or have sex early in the relationship/ before you’re ready?
  • Act jealous or possessive?
  • Try to control where you go, what you wear, or what you do?
  • Text or IM you constantly? Harass you online?
  • Refuse to consider your point of view or desires?
  • Keep you from talking to or spending time with close friends or family?
  • Drink too much or use drugs and then blame the alcohol and drugs for his/her behavior
  • Threaten to hurt you or themselves if you leave them?

These are just a few questions you might ask yourself.  For more, check out our Dating Abuse Checklist.

Simply put, if your partner has said or done something that seemed like a red flag, it probably was. It could become, or may already be, abusive and it’s time to put a stop to it. Keep reading for tips on how to get help.

Get Help

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, seek help. You are not alone and there are places you can turn to for help. Talk to your parents, a teacher, or another adult you can trust.  You can also contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 (1-866-331-8453 for the hearing impaired) or online at They offer help 24/7 immediate, confidential assistance where you can find support as well as referrals to local resources in your hometown to provide you with the help that you need.

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant Number: 90-FE-0024.Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

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