What to do if you think you are experiencing teenage relationship abuse

Marnie on stairs with phone in hands

Abuse in teenage relationships could be when one person begins to feel scared of or controlled by the person they’re with. They may be confused because of being told they’re loved but only if they do or say certain things that their partner asks them to do. This can happen at any age, regardless of gender. This guide was produced in partnership with Action for Children and Women’s Aid.

What are the signs of teenage relationship abuse?

Below are a list of some of the most common signs of teenage relationship abuse (but there could be other things):

  • emotional abuse: controlling behaviour, like telling someone where they can go and what they can wear
  • online abuse: threatening to post personal pictures or information about them 
  • controlling someone’s finances: withholding money or stopping someone going to work 
  • snooping: reading emails, text messages or letters 
  • sexual abuse: making someone do something sexual when they don’t want to
  • physical abuse: violence towards someone, such as kicking, punching, hitting

You don’t have to be living with someone for a toxic relationship to develop – some young people will experience domestic abuse in their own relationships and normally live with their parents or carers. It can happen in any relationship and can continue once the relationship is over, it can happen to boys and girls but most importantly, it is never your fault.

No one should have to experience any form of an abusive relationship.

What to do if you are in a relationship that feels abusive

If your boyfriend or girlfriend is being physically or emotionally abusive in anyway, including over the phone, messaging or using social media, this is relationship abuse and there are some important things you can do.

Speak to someone you can trust

In order to get the right support, it is important to talk to someone you trust, only if you feel safe to do so.

  • Childline: call 0800 1111, or sign up so you can online chat and send messages (9am - midnight)
  • The police: if it's an emergency, call 999. If you can't speak, listen to the questions and tap or cough to answer. Press 55 to signal an emergency.
  • Trusted adult: send a message or call someone you trust and let them know you're worried 

If you are not living with your boyfriend or girlfriend, they may be putting pressure on you to go and see them or do things online that you are not comfortable with. This is also an example of teenage relationship abuse. 

How you can support someone you are worried about

If you are worried that a young person you know is in an abusive relationship or living in a family where one adult is being abusive to another, you should reach out to them and let them know how to get support.

What to do if you are worried about harming someone you love

If you are worried about the way you are behaving towards your boyfriend or girlfriend or towards a family member you should try and speak to someone about this or get support here.

Teenage relationship abuse advice and resources