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Emotional, physical, digital, or sexual abuse by a person to harm, threaten, intimidate, or control a dating partner. Most abuse starts out with hard-to-identify signals like jealousy, excessive texting, or insisting on spending every moment together. Many teens mistake this for love.

Relationship abuse is more common than many people think among students and on school grounds. In a recent study, 75% of seventh-grade students reported they were dating and 60% of dating teens ages 14 to 20 reported experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional relationship violence. Up to 87% of this violence occurs on school grounds.

Relationship abuse can start with small hard to identify behaviors that can vary in frequency and severity and occur on a continuum, ranging from one episode that may have lasting impacts, to chronic and severe episodes over a period of months or years.

4 forms of relationship abuse 

[1] Physical abuse

Is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force. Scratching, punching, biting, strangling, or kicking.

  • Throwing something at you such as a phone, book, shoe, or plate.
  • Pulling your hair.
  • Pushing or pulling you.
  • Grabbing your clothing.
  • Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace, or other weapons.
  • Smacking your butt without your permission or consent.
  • Pressuring you to have sex or perform a sexual act.
  • Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
  • Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere.
  • Severe physical injury that could result in death.

[2] Verbal or Emotional abuse:

  • Calling you names and putting you down.
  • Yelling and screaming at you.
  • Intentionally embarrassing you in public.
  • Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family.
  • Telling you what to do and what to wear.
  • Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
  • Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate you.
  • Blaming your actions for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.
  • Accusing you of cheating and often being jealous of your friends and family
  • Stalking you.
  • Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
  • Threatening to harm you, your pet, or people you care about.
  • Lying or using false information to confuse or manipulate you.
  • Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
  • Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
  • Starting rumors about you.

[3] Sexual abuse

Is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.

  • Unwanted kissing or touching.
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity.
  • Rape or attempted rape.
  • Refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control.
  • Keeping someone from protecting themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Sexual contact with someone who is very drunk, drugged, unconscious, or otherwise unable to give a clear and enthusiastic “yes”.
  • Threatening someone into unwanted sexual activity.
  • Pressuring or forcing someone to have sex or perform sexual acts.
  • Using sexual insults toward someone.

[4] Digital abuse

Is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. Often this behavior is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online. In a healthy relationship, all communication is respectful whether in person, online, or by phone. It is never okay for someone to do or say anything that makes you feel bad, lowers your self-esteem, or manipulates you. You may be experiencing digital abuse if your partner:

  • Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on your socials.
  • Sends you negative, insulting, or even threatening messages. 
  • Uses social media or a tracker to keep constant tabs on you.
  • Puts you down in their status updates.
  • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and/or demands you send some in return.
  • Pressures you to send explicit videos or sexts.
  • Steals or insists on being given your passwords.
  • Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
  • Looks through your phone frequently, and checks up on your pictures, texts, and outgoing calls.
  • Tags you in pictures that are embarrassing. 
  • Uses any kind of technology (such as spyware or tracking software) to monitor you.