Violence in teenage relationships: you’re not alone

‘I know he loves me’

‘She doesn’t mean it’

‘It’s because they’re stressed’

‘It won’t happen again’

‘He didn’t mean it’

These are the sorts of excuses used to defend an abusive partner from probing questions. It might be that you’ve not said them, but you’ve thought them to justify something that your boyfriend or girlfriend has done.

These are ways of trying to rationalise actions which just aren’t rational. Whether you’ve cancelled plans to spend time with your friends or you have said no to a physical aspect of a relationship, there’s no excuse for physical violence or psychological abuse.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is defined as:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is defined as being a range of acts designed to make a person feel like they’re not good enough, or make them reliant on the abuser by isolating them from sources of support, taking advantage for personal gain, and stopping them from being able to act independently.

Coercive behaviour is when someone uses assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

So domestic abuse isn’t something which happens in many teenage relationships?

While around 80 percent of parents believe that teen dating violence isn’t an issue, or admit that they hadn’t really considered it, the statistics of teenagers who are in violent relationships, or have experienced some form of abuse are shocking. Although the home office definition specifies those aged 16 and over, violent relationships can still occur in relationships between younger people:

  • One in five teenagers have been assaulted by a boyfriend.
  • Young women aged 16-24 are more likely to experience sexual violence than any other age groups.
  • Young women with older partners are at increased risk of victimisation.
  • Surveys have shown around 40 percent of young people are subjected to abusive relationships whilst still a teenager.
  • In an NSPCC survey, 21% of participants (both male and female) reported their partner using physical force such as pushing, slapping, hitting or holding them down at least once (four females and five males reported this happening ‘all the time’)
  • Some studies show that only 33% of teens in violent relationships ever tell anyone about the abuse.
  • While abuse in relationships is often gendered (‘he hits her’), it’s not something which only happens to girls, and it’s not something which only men do. It can happen in any relationship, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

This behaviour often starts to manifest in teenage years (normally between the ages of 12 and 18), so it’s really important that you recognise the signs and know that controlling, jealous, possessive behaviour isn’t normal, and it can lead on to emotional abuse and physical abuse.

The problem arises because we have so much trust in those we are closest to and the violence is usually something which manifests later on rather than in the early days of the relationship when it would be easier to walk away.

The feelings associated with an abusive partner can be really confusing. You love them, but they knock your self-confidence. They only get jealous because they love you so much; it’s almost flattering. You want to spend time with them, but then they behave like that. It might feel as if the good times outweigh the bad enough for you to stay, but should you? As we have so much trust in those we are closest to, there is a large amount of scope for this trust to be abused. This could be physical, emotional, or psychological, but however it’s dressed it is abuse and you deserve better.

In your teens you’re likely to start having your first relationships, and it’s really important that you are able to differentiate between loving actions and those which are excessive, controlling, and violent.

Remember that it can be difficult to recognise abuse in others, especially if you’re not looking for it. If you’re in a relationship and something isn’t right, talk to someone before it gets worse. We’re here to listen, and sometimes just getting it off your chest can give you the courage you need to walk away. Ring us free on 0808 800 1037 today.