Abuse in a relationship can happen to anyone, this includes teenagers, and perhaps we do not talk enough about these relationships. Often they are the very first forays into being in love, having a boy or girlfriend, where we are discovering and trying to figure out so much about ourselves and others in our lives. And let’s be honest, for many, being a teenager can be hard, but what makes abuse in such relationships even harder perhaps is the idea that they are not taken as seriously as adult relationships and that adults might not “understand” these relationships.
Before we delve into what the warning bells could be for abuse in teenage relationships, let’s first establish that abuse is NOT only just hitting or physical violence or only affects girls or that LGBTQ+ relationships are immune to abuse.
Much of abuse, nowadays, is also done online using messaging platforms, texting, and social media. Abuse can be verbal (threats), emotional, sexual, financial, digital and coercion.
Key for parents and guardians truly is to have those difficult conversations early about what healthy relationships are. How the foundations of a healthy relationship, regardless of age are; trust, respect, honesty, support, encouragement, fairness, communication and the ability to be yourself.
Kids are growing up quicker, and what info you don’t give will be filled in by friends, and this might not reflect the right information. It’s important to explain what abuse is, without being judgmental, so they, themselves, can understand the different kinds and that they are never to blame for being abused; leaving that door open that if they are ever unsure about the situation, they find themselves in they feel able to perhaps to you.
What are the warning signs?
It is important to remember that any of the signs below are NOT automatically “evidence” of an abusive relationship, but are signs your teen’s wellbeing is not good.
- Isolation; if your teen seems to have dropped old friends or is not seeing many friends anymore, just their boy or girlfriend and no one else.
- Is constantly checking their phone and feeling angry or panicky at the idea of switching it off. Or stressing about not being able to text their boy/girlfriend back straight away.
- Physical signs such as unexplained injuries, bruising or scratching.
- They might begin to dress differently.
- They might be anxious or depressed.
If you are worried, stay calm, don’t judge, voice your concerns and focus on allowing them to feel safe with you without fearing you will judge them (too). Be supportive, focus on the unhealthy behaviours (not the partner) in your conversations and avoid being preachy or patronising or laying the blame on them. Point them in the direction of organisations, such as Rotherham Rise, that can help their relationship or online resources where they can discover more about abuse in relationships such as disrespectnobody.co.uk.
How Common Is It?
Abuse is more common than we think some of these figures from a NSPCC report, with 13 – 17yr olds, should shake us awake.
- 33% of girls and 16% of boys reported some form of sexual abuse within their relationship.
- 25% of girls (the same proportion as adult women) and
- 18% of boys reported some form of physical relationship abuse.
- 75% of girls and 50% of boys reported some form of emotional relationship abuse.