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UPDATED June 21, 2012

Information for Teens

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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

back to topWhat is dating violence?

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

Sixty-two percent of 11- to 14-year-olds who had been in a relationship knew friends who had been verbally abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to a 2008 study by Liz Claiborne Inc.

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back to topIs teen dating violence similar to adult domestic violence?

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

  • Both teen dating violence and adult domestic violence effect people from all socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic, and religious groups
  • Both occur in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian 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 she is trying to terminate the abusive relationship
  • Both men and women, or girls and boys, can be the abusers

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back to topHow is teen dating violence different from adult domestic violence?

There are several things that make teenage dating violence different from adult domestic violence. Usually, when a teen is abused, he or she becomes isolated from her peers because of the controlling behavior of the abusive partner.

The isolation teens face in abusive dating situations often makes it hard to:

  • develop new and mature relationships with peers of both sexes.
  • feel emotionally independent.
  • develop personal values and beliefs.
  • stay focused on school and get good grades.

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

back to topChecklist: 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 they say and do?
  • Threaten to kill or hurt you or themselves if you leave them?
  • Try to stop you from seeing or talking to friends and family?
  • Try to force you to have sex before you're ready? (SEE SEXUAL COERCION page – that we haven’t written yet…)
  • Do they hit, slap, push or kick you?*
Information from Loveisrespect. Org website "Are you Being Abused”

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back to topWhat 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

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back to topHow can I find help on when I should talk to an adult?

Talking about relationships problems is never easy, especially when you're talking to an adult. It's normal to want to solve your problems on your own. It's normal not to want to get anyone in trouble, or betray a friend's confidence.

Sometimes, however, there are problems 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.

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back to topHow do I end the relationship?

Unfortunately, leaving an abusive relationship does not mean that the danger has ended.  Visit http://www.loveisrespect.org/get-help/breaking-up/ to find help with how to break up and end a relationship safely. 

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back to topMy boyfriend/girlfriend is writing mean things on my Facebook or MySpace profile. What should I do?

With the popularity of Facebook and MySpace, many people have profiles and use these social networking sites to stay connected to friends, post pictures and share information. If you are in an abusive relationship, your abuser may be using your Facebook or MySpace profile in harmful ways against you. They may be stalking you (see Cyber Stalking page on WomensLaw.org), or going into your account (if they know your password) and sending messages from it as if they were you, or writing mean or harmful things on your “wall”. They may also be spreading pictures or hurtful comments about you to others by using Facebook or MySpace. 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 MySpace then here are some tips:

- If your abuser knows your password, think about changing it

- You can block anyone from seeing your profile, finding you through the search engine or interacting with your profile in any way, by doing the following:
   1. Go to Settings
   2. Click "Manage" on the Privacy option
   3. Type the name of the person you want to block in the field
Note:  This is not permanent, so if you change your mind later you can "unblock" someone.

- If your abuser created a MySpace or Facebook account pretending to be you this is identity theft and it is a crime. You local law enforcement should be able to help you. You can also contact the administrator of the site and ask them to remove the profile. Report them on Myspace here or contact Facebook at abuse@facebook.com.

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Helping a friend

back to topHow can I tell if my friend is in an abusive relationship?

Answer the questions below. If you answer "yes" to any of them, your friend might be in an abusive relationship.

  • Does your friend show physical signs of injury?
  • Is she doing worse in school, or has dropped out completely?
  • Has she changed her clothing or makeup style?
  • Has she lost confidence and does she have difficulty making decisions?
  • Has she quit her normal after-school activities?
  • Has she started using drugs or alcohol?
  • Does she have mood swings or emotional outbursts?
  • Has she isolated herself from friends and family?
  • Has she become pregnant?
  • Does she apologize for her boyfriend's abusive behavior?
  • Does she seem overly worried about upsetting or angering her boyfriend?

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back to topHow 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 them to find out for sure. 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 that site before talking to your friend.  Here is the direct link: http://www.loveisrespect.org/get-help/support-for-a-friend/

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back to topHow do I find help on talking to my friend who may be the abuser in a relationship?

It's hard to know how to talk to a friend when you think his behavior is out of control. For ideas on how to talk to your friend about his behavior go to the loveisrespect.org website: http://www.loveisrespect.org/get-help/talk-to-an-abusive-friend/.  They have a list of things to keep in mind when you're talking to a friend who may be the abuser in a dating relationship.

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Legal information on teen dating violence

back to topWhat 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 differ in each state. In addition, not all states allow people under age 18 permission 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. 


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back to topAm I eligible for a restraining order even through 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 your 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 Where to Find 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.

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back to topHow do I file for a restraining order?

If you discover that teens in dating relationships are eligible to obtain restraining orders in your state, the Restraining Orders page for your state on this website will have step-by-step instructions on how to file for a restraining order in your state.

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Finding help

back to topWhere 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 listings for teen dating violence listed on this website here: Where to Find Help for Teens

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