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Fact Sheet

Abusive relationships


When you’re in a healthy relationship, both individuals support each other by sharing the good times and helping each other through the tough ones. When someone matters deeply to you, and those feelings of trust and respect are returned, it enables you to face the world with confidence.

Building and maintaining a healthy relationship takes a commitment from both sides. But it’s worth it, because in a good relationship, you feel good about your boyfriend or girlfriend and good about yourself.

Not all relationships work out, no matter how much we might want them to. When a relationship becomes violent or destructive, it can be both physically and emotionally dangerous for the people involved.

Key signs of an abusive relationship

While everyone’s experience of an unhealthy or abusive relationship will be different, there are some common patterns of controlling behavior and abuse that can surface before the relationship becomes physically violent. These include:

Possessiveness. This could mean that your partner is checking on you all the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with; or trying to control where you can go and who you can see.

Jealousy. This includes accusing you—without good reason—of being unfaithful or flirting, or isolating you from your family and friends, often by exhibiting rude behavior.

Put-downs. These can happen either privately or publicly by attacking how smart you are, your looks or capabilities. In an abusive situation, your boyfriend or girlfriend might also constantly compare you unfavorably to other people, or blame you for all the problems in the relationship.

Threats. An abuser might use threats against you, for example, that he or she will use violence against you, your family or friends, or even a pet. He or she might tell you that no one else will ever want to date you. Yelling, sulking, and breaking things are also signs of abuse.

What to do if you are being abused

It’s not OK to be physically threatened or scared into things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy just because you are in a relationship.

It’s not OK to be put down and pushed around—shoved, hit, slapped, kicked or punched. No one deserves to be treated this way. No one should use violence—or the threat of violence—to make you do what you don’t want to do.

It’s not OK for someone to use the excuse that they are tired, stressed, over-worked or under financial pressure as a reason for their violent behavior.

If you’re living with your boyfriend or girlfriend and are feeling unsafe, find other accommodations with friends or family, or if that’s not possible, an emergency shelter.

Breaking the cycle of violence

A violent relationship may not be violent all the time. Sometimes, violent people treat their boyfriends or girlfriends very well. They can be loving and sorry for their violent behavior. This can make it hard to see what’s really happening. There is a strong chance that the violence will get worse, and the relationship more abusive over time.

After a violent event, it’s common for both of you to try and make things better by making excuses, apologizing, or promising to change. But there is no excuse for this behavior, and just saying sorry is not good enough. Sometimes the violent person will blame the victim by saying things like “it wouldn’t happen if you did what I said.” Things might settle down for a while, but usually it’s only a matter of time before the build-up to violence starts again.

If you’re experiencing violence in a relationship, things can feel very confusing, especially if it’s your first relationship. You might try to make excuses, think of the violence as a one-time incident, or blame the abuse on the fact that the abuser was drunk or stressed. You might not be sure what behavior to expect from him or her.

You might begin to think that the violence is your fault. You might start to try to fit in with whatever the abuser wants, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You might also feel scared that he or she will hurt you if you try to leave.

Ending any kind of relationship is hard to do, but it can be particularly difficult to leave a violent relationship. When you’re frightened and your self-esteem is low, it can be hard to find the strength to leave or break-up. Sometimes it’s easier to hope that things will change for the better, but too often they don’t.

The first step in changing things is to understand that what’s been happening to you is wrong. Even if your boyfriend or girlfriend says they care about you, it’s not OK to be treated like this.

Where to get help

Listen to your feelings and trust them. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Talk to someone who cares about you. Talk to your mom or dad, a family member, a friend or someone in your community like your doctor, your teacher or your local religious leader. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. You are not responsible for somebody else’s violent behavior. Your first responsibility is to yourself. The sources listed below can help you get safe.


Many free help hotlines are available if you think you’re being abused, or are worried for a friend you suspect could be being abused. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800 448-3000, run by Boys Town for everyone. Both hotlines are confidential and staffed 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who are ready to talk to you about whatever you’re feeling.

You can also call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474, or visit their website at This site also has a free live web chat that’s staffed by young people who can offer you support.

State resource

You can also reach out to an abuse coalition in your state, which can help connect you to more local resources. Check out the Domestic Violence Coalitions website for more information in your state.

The following sources provided information for this fact sheet:

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

U.S. Department of Justice, State Domestic Abuse

Your Life Your Voice Youth Helpline

Where to Next?



  • avatar2

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    how do i leave i need help i need to leave im just scared

    • avatar1

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      One thing that you could do is to call the youth helpline at Your Life Your Voice.  The number is 1-800-448-3000.  They can give you specifics about what to do to get out, and some resources that will really help you in your local area.  That call is free and confidential, and they are available 24/7.  You can call right now.  Please be safe.

  • avatar2

    Reply - Quote


    So the only type of abusive relationship is a physically violent one? Because I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a little over a year, when we first got together, over the course of a couple of months, he made me delete almost all of my social networking profiles (tumblr, twitter, facebook, snapchat, ect). He’d get furious if I didn’t reply to his texts within five minutes. He’d call me at work to make sure I wasn’t lying about where I was. My best friend of over five years hates me now because my boyfriend forbid us from hanging out and I’m so stupid I listened to him. Recently, he’s escalated to beating the tar out of our dog over little things. She’s 120 lbs and he scares her so badly she pees herself which makes him angrier. I could go on, but it seems pointless. I’ve never done anything to make him think I’d cheat. He was my first and he knows it, but he still constantly doubts it. I even moved two hours away from my work, friends, and family with him so he could get a better job. Sometimes I think it’s abuse and most times I just feel like I’m overreacting.

    • avatar2

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      i no how you feel but ive been with him for 4 years he doen’t let me have friends so soical sites or anything i dont know how to leave he calls me names he yells an screams at me i feel wothless ugly and lonely

      • avatar1

        Reply - Quote


        We’re so sorry that you’re feeling so alone!  Do you have anyone that you can talk to about it, when he’s not around?  Anyone that will help you?

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote


      No, it doesn’t just have to be physically violent to be abusive.  You are the one who decides that, and it’s OK to trust your feelings. It’s not hard to see that you’re really concerned.  Do you feel unsafe?  You used the word “escalated,” in talking about what he does to the dog—do you ever feel like he could escalate into hurting you? 

      There are people and organizations out there who can help.  One place you could call is the Your Life Your Voice helpline at 1-800-448-3000.  They would have some good ideas and resources for you.  You can also call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474, or visit their website at  Also., if you’re ever feeling immediately unsafe, you should just call 911.

      It was good that you came here seeking answers.  That was very brave and smart of you.  We hope you’ll find the strength to take the next steps, as well.

      Be safe and well,
      The ReachOut Crew

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