Teens and Violence
Information for teens experiencing relationship abuse
Teen relationship violence is more common than many people think:
- 1 in 5 teens who have been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner.
- 1 in 3 girls who have been in a serious relationship say they've been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner.
- In a study of gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens, youths in same-sex relationships are just as likely to experience dating violence as youths involved in opposite sex dating.
Teen relationship violence can take lots of forms. Here are some forms of abuse:
- Emotional abuse – putting you down, criticizing your family, friends, how you dress, etc.; threatening to harm you more if you don't do what he/she wants; threatening to hurt him/herself or others you care about if you don't do what he/she wants.
- Physical abuse – hitting, slapping, pushing, punching, choking/strangling, etc.
- Sexual abuse – making you or physically forcing you to have any sexual contact you don't want to have
- Monitoring/Controlling/Stalking – calling, texting all the time, checking on you, following you, controlling your life and decisions
- Isolating – only wanting you to spend time with them, making it hard for you to see other people
- Financial abuse – taking your things, money, using your credit card without your permission, etc.
Over time, abuse tends to get worse – it happens more often and it gets more dangerous. All abuse can become dangerous. Here are some red flags that indicate serious risk for injury or homicide:
- Victim/survivor is ending the relationship, or starting to plan to do so;
- Abuser is depressed; very high risk if the abuser has talked about or attempted suicide;
- Abuser makes threats to seriously harm or kill;
- Abuser is stalking;
- Abuser has access to weapons, especially guns;
- Abuser is inflicting serious injury, strangulation/choking, prior use of weapons;
- Abuser has a mental impairment of abuser due to alcohol, drugs, or mental illness;
- Abuser has a history of contact with police, courts, protection orders, etc. with no change in behavior.
When you start to talk to other people and plan to break-up, things can get more dangerous during that time. BE SURE to get help making a plan for how you will stay safe as you pull away from the person who is abusing you. If you're experiencing abuse, here are some things to remember:
- Listen to yourself, trust yourself.
- Choose at least one person to tell what is happening. Try to let at least one adult in your life know what is going on. When you consider telling adults, remember that some of them will be obligated to tell someone else about the abuse. Ask adults whether they have to report abuse so that you know what will happen.
- Telling someone you have experienced abuse and need help doesn't make you weak. Being the target of someone else's bad behavior is nothing to feel ashamed, judged or embarrassed about.
- You may be afraid the abuse will get worse if you tell someone. But it is actually likely to get worse over time on its own; being alone in this increases danger for you.
- Keep reaching out; don't let the abuse isolate you. You can call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline anonymously.
- Know that nothing is more important than your safety. Nothing.
- Remember that if you decide to break up or stop contact with the person who is abusing you, things may get more dangerous at first – make a safety plan.
- Plan for technology safety, too – see the guide below.
- There is safety in numbers – keep friends around as part of your safety plan.
- You have a right to be safe and free from harassment.
- The abuse is not your fault. No one can cause someone else to be abusive.
- You can call the National Teen Dating Helpline anonymously for help: 866-331-9474/866-331-8453 TTY.
In Ohio, you can seek a Civil Protection Order against the person who is abusing you. See the Legal Information section here for more information. If you seek a CPO, you have a right to ask for what they call an "ex-parte" hearing. This allows you to ask for a Protection Order so that when your abuser is served with papers, he/she can also be served with an order to stay away from you until your court hearing. You can also call a domestic violence program to ask for an advocate to help you with your legal options. See a list of domestic violence programs under Resources, or call 800-934-9840 to find the program closest to you.
- It's important to develop your own safety plan. You can read more about that here, but it would be good to call the hotline to get some help in developing your own safety plan, specific to your life and circumstances.
Here are some safety tips that may be helpful, but each situation is unique. This is not a safety plan. Please call a domestic violence hotline or the National Teen Abuse Helpline 866-331-9474/866-331-8453 TTY, to develop a personalized safety plan based on the details of the abuse, and all the aspects of your life.
- Identify a safe person in your household to tell what is happening. It's best for as many people in your household as possible to know, so that they don't let the abuser in.
- Try to not be home alone.
- Don't tell others if your parents/guardians are going to be gone. They may inform your abuser.
- Keep your cell phone on you in case you need to call for help.
- If you have to be home alone, make sure all the doors and windows are locked.
- Identify at least two places you can go if home becomes unsafe.
- Take an alternative route to and from school if you can. If you can't get to and from school safely, see if it's possible for someone to take you until it feels safe.
- See if it's possible to change your class schedule to avoid your abuser, if needed.
- If you have a protection order (similar to a restraining order), consider providing a copy of it to school administrators.
- Walk to and from classes with others, even if your abuser walks with you. There is safety in numbers.
- Share your safety plan with those you trust.
- Try to find a trusted teacher, coach, guidance counselor, nurse or school administrator with whom you can talk.
- Identify safe people you can tell about your situation; keep their contact information with you.
- Develop a code word with your safe person(s) to use if you are unsafe and your abuser is present, and decide in advance what you want your safe person to do if you use that word.
- Keep the number of the Teen Relationship Abuse Helpline with you: 866-331-9474/866-331-8453 TTY.
- Talk to a supervisor, if it is safe, about what is going on and find out if the abuser can be kept off of the premises. If you can, find out if your employer has a policy about domestic violence, and if they are likely to be sympathetic if you ask for help.
- Work a different shift, if possible. Talk to a supervisor about not scheduling you to close.
- If possible, change the store, restaurant or work location so you are working, if only temporarily, in a different location. If you cannot change locations, if it's safe, talk to your supervisor about changing job duties so you are not as visible.
- If you have a civil protection order, consider providing a copy to your employer.
- Change the route that you travel to and from work.
- Remember, it is always okay to turn off your phone. (Just be sure your parent or guardian knows how to contact you in an emergency.)
- If you think your abuser can use GPS to track where you are, you can turn off GPS in your cell phone. (If there is GPS on the car you use, you can also turn that off.)
- Do not answer calls from unknown numbers. Your abuser can easily call you from another line if he/she suspects you are avoiding him/her.
- Do not respond to hostile, harassing, abusive or inappropriate texts or messages. Responding can encourage the person who sent the message. You won't get the person to stop – and your messages might get you in trouble and make it harder to get a protection order or file a criminal report.
- Consider saving harassing voice mails in case you want to take legal action in the future.
- Many phone companies can block up to ten numbers from texting or calling you. Contact your phone company or check their website to see if you can do this on your phone.
- Remember that pictures on cell phones can be easily shared and distributed (sexting) There is no safe way to ensure that a picture taken of you won't be shared electronically.
- If you are in or coming out of a dangerous relationship, it is probably not a good idea to use any form of technology to contact your abuser. It can be dangerous and could have a negative impact on future legal actions you may want to take.
- Some victims decide to change their cell phone numbers to get the abuse and harassment to stop. Others want to know what the abuser is saying and thinking, to gauge their risks. Decide what works best for you.
- If you change your number, only give to people you trust and make sure they know not to pass it out to other people. Someone could give your number to your abuser, or a friend of your abuser.
- If you do keep the same cell phone number, consider changing the message to a standard greeting. Abusive partners sometimes call over and over just to hear the victim's voice.
- If you are getting harassing messages and you want to monitor the calls for safety reasons, consider having someone you trust listen to your messages so that you don't have to hear all of the harassing messages. Ask that person to tell you about any threats they hear in the messages.
- Make sure your cell phone is not set to auto answer.
Social Networking and Online sites:
- Set privacy settings as high as possible on all of your online profiles.
- Do not answer instant messages from unknown persons.
- Do not accept a friend of a friend on Facebook, MySpace or other networking sites. You should be friends with only those that you know personally as your abuser could obtain information about you through third party sources.
- Don't post your phone number on social networking sites.
- Consider disabling your social networking sites if you feel this will help increase your safety.
- If your abuser can access your computer, be careful which websites you visit. If you are seeking information to get help about the abuse, use a public computer, at the library or other safe place.
- Save or keep a record of all harassing or abusive messages, posts, and emails in case you decide later to tell the police or get a protection order.
- Never give your passwords to anyone other than your parent or guardian. It's a good idea to choose passwords that aren't easy to guess, to not use the same password for all your accounts, and to change passwords regularly.
- It may seem extreme, but if the abuse and harassment will not stop, changing your usernames and email addresses may be your best option.
- Always report inappropriate behavior to the site administrators.
Survivors need to participate in developing their own individual safety plans:
- Call the National Teen Abuse Helpline to get help with developing an Individualized Safety Plan (866-331-9474, TTY 866-331-8453.)