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About Abuse

Information for Teens and Young Adults

Information for Teens and Young Adults

Updated: 
September 3, 2019

Teen or young adult dating violence or domestic violence is a pattern of controlling and abusive behavior against a romantic partner in a relationship where at least one of the people is 13-24 years old. Please visit www.loveisrespect.org or www.thatsnotcool.com for more information.

Basic info and definitions

What is teen or young adult dating violence?

Teen or young adult dating violence or domestic violence is a pattern of controlling and abusive behavior against a romantic partner in a relationship where at least one of the people is 13-24 years old. You may experience dating violence even if you are not being physically abused. Dating violence among teens and young adults can take many forms, including mental/emotional abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, and more. You can read about these different forms of abuse on our Forms of Abuse page. Dating violence among teens and young adults can occur in any relationship, no matter how long you’ve been dating.

What are warning signs of abuse in teenage and young adult relationships?

Many people of all ages don’t recognize that they are in an abusive relationship. We have a checklist of abusive behavior for people of all ages on our Signs of Abuse page. Below are some warning signs of teen and young adult dating violence specifically.

Does your partner:

  • demand to look at your email or social media accounts, or log into your email or social media accounts without permission?
  • demand to check your phone, or look at your phone without your permission;
  • put you down, insult you, or call you names?
  • get jealous or insecure, or make you change your behavior to make your partner feel better?
  • try to make you ‘confess’ to doing things that you haven’t done or make false accusations about your behavior, like accusing you of cheating?
  • have outbursts or a “bad temper” that causes you to be frightened or fear for your safety?
  • demand that you stop talking to certain friends, classmates, or others?
  • insist that you not tell your parents about your relationship or about certain parts of your relationship?
  • pressure or force you to have sex or do sexual things you don’t want to do or that make you feel uncomfortable or disrespected?
  • physically hurt you in any way?1

You can also see more examples of dating violence at Loveisrespect’s “What Are the Different Types of Dating Abuse?”

1 This information was adapted from Loveisrespect’s “Is This Abuse?”

What are the possible effects of being in an abusive relationship as a teen or young adult?

Experiencing dating violence or abuse as a teenager or young adult may lead you to:

  • do poorly in school;
  • not attend school out of fear for your safety;
  • engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as binge drinking, smoking, using drugs, or disordered eating;
  • engage in unsafe sex practices, which can lead to pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections;
  • develop a negative body image;
  • become uncomfortable with your body or sexuality;
  • become depressed or suicidal; or
  • enter into abusive relationships as an adult.1

1Consequences,” Youth.gov

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

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. 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.

My boyfriend/girlfriend is writing mean things on social media. What should I do?

Many people have profiles on social media websites, and use social media to stay connected to friends, post pictures, and share information. If you are in an abusive relationship, the abuser may be using your social media pages 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 public page. S/he may also be spreading pictures or hurtful comments about you to others by using social media. It may be a good idea to deactivate your account for a while until you feel safe again, but if you plan on staying on social media, 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. 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 and in a place where you think s/he will feel safe. You can see common signs of teen and young adult dating violence in:

You can also see information about how to help a friend in an abusive relationship on Loveisrespect’s website.

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 that a victim can get for free. Sometimes, a minor can even file for a restraining order without involving his/her parents but this will depend on the laws of each state. A judge can generally issue a restraining order against an abusive partner or ex-partner and require him/her to stop abusing you. The order may also state that your partner cannot contact you, has to stay away from you, and may include many other protections, such as forcing the abuser to switch schools if you attend the same school. Please see our Restraining Orders pages for your state to find out how to apply for an order in your state.

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, as mentioned above, not all states allow minors to get a restraining order on their own without an adult’s help. If you’re under 18 and need a restraining order, please see Am I eligible for a restraining order even though I am under 18?

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

In some states, you can file for a restraining order on your own, without an adult’s involvement, even if you’re under 18. Most states that allow minors to apply for restraining orders on their own require that you be 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 other states, an adult (often a parent, guardian, or domestic violence professional) has to file on your behalf.

Whether you can get a restraining order if you’re a minor is determined by state law, and may depend on different factors, including:

  • if an adult, like a parent, guardian, or domestic violence professional files on your behalf;
  • whether you are married or have children with the abuser;
  • if the abuser is a minor, whether your state allows orders to be issued against minors; and
  • other factors set by the law.

To find out what your state requires, read the question called Can a minor get an order? in the domestic violence restraining order section in your state. You can also contact a local domestic violence advocate from our Advocates and Shelters page to get help understanding your state’s requirements for minors.

Even if your state requires an adult to assist you in applying for an order, you may still be able to file without a parent or guardian if you can convince the judge to make an exception. 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 select or approve a “guardian ad litem,” who is someone that represents your interests during the litigation (court proceeding). It could be a lawyer or a non-lawyer, or even someone you choose, depending on the state. You can find free and paid lawyers in your state on our Finding a Lawyer page. Some states also specifically allow domestic violence advocates to apply on a minor’s behalf.

Finding help

Where can I find help?

You can speak to an advocate about dating violence or domestic violence via chat on the Loveisrespect website, or by phone or text. You can call an advocate at 1-866-331-9474 or TTY at 1-866-331-8453, or send the text “loveis” (capitalization does not matter) to 22522.

There are also a lot of resources for teen dating violence listed on our National Organizations - Teens page that may be helpful.