Is your teenager in an abusive relationship?
Violence can happen in teenage relationships, so make sure you know the signs and can help your child.
Abuse in relationships – including those between teenagers – can happen to men and boys, but it's much more likely to happen to women and girls. It also happens in same-sex relationships.
Different types of abuse
Physical abuse can include hitting, kicking, punching, slapping, pushing, and pressuring or forcing someone into sexual activity.
Emotional and verbal abuse involves a person:
- saying things that make their partner feel small or stupid
- pressuring their partner to do things they don't want to do, including sexual things
- checking up on their partner – for instance, by text – all the time to find out where they are and who they're with
- threatening to hurt their partner or someone close to their partner, including pets
Warning signs your teen is being abused
Signs of abuse can include your child:
- no longer hanging out with their circle of friends
- not doing as well at school, or skipping school altogether
- constantly checking their phone
- being withdrawn and quieter than usual
- being angry and becoming irritable when asked how they're doing
- making excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend
- having unexplained scratches or bruises
- showing changes in mood or personality
- using drugs or alcohol
Warning signs your teen's partner is abusive
It's a sign of controlling or violent behaviour if your child's boyfriend or girlfriend:
- gets extremely jealous
- monitors texts, messages, calls and emails, and gets angry if there isn't an instant response
- has trouble controlling his or her emotions, particularly anger
- stops your child seeing or talking with friends and family as much as they'd like
- uses force during an argument
- blames others for his or her problems or feelings
- is verbally abusive
- shows threatening behaviour towards others
How to help
Talk to your child about what's OK and what's not in a relationship. Some teenagers believe violence is "just the way things are", or is "just messing around".
Make sure they understand that violent or controlling behaviour is not OK, and that nobody should put up with it.
Some girls believe that if their boyfriend gets jealous or checks up on them, it means he loves them.
Let your teenage girl know that this kind of behaviour is not about love or romance, it's about control and her boyfriend making her behave in the way he wants.
Some boys might believe that controlling their girlfriend's behaviour makes them more of a man. Make sure your teenage boy knows that using violence does not make someone a man.
Before you start the conversation with your teenager, think through what your concerns are.
Consider talking about it confidentially with someone like your doctor or a friend. This will help you understand your own feelings so you won't be too emotional when you talk to your child.
Try not to talk to your teenager in a confrontational way. Say you're worried about them and ask if everything's OK.
Even if they don't talk to you at this point, they might go away and think about things, and talk to you later.
Show your support
Tell your child they can always come to you, no matter what.
Victims of abuse can feel ashamed and believe (wrongly) that the abuse is their fault. Make it clear that being abused is never your child's fault, and you will help them if they come to you.
You can also tell them about helplines which they can call if they don't feel they can talk to you.