PHOTO: Home Office Disrespect NoBody campaign
What is relationship abuse?
Abuse in teenage relationships is a pattern of abusive behaviour that someone uses against a partner. Abuse in relationships can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender or family situations. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical: it can take many forms, including threats, emotional abuse, insults, isolation from friends and family, and controlling what someone wears or who they socialise with. It can also include being pressured to have sex before they are ready, sexual assault and rape.
What can you do?
1. Talk to your teenager
Talking about these issues may be challenging, so start with the basics: have a chat with your teenager to work out what they think constitutes a healthy relationship.
The foundations of a healthy relationship are:
- Mutual respect
- Separate identities
- Good communication
This sort of conversation can spark a discussion about preventing abuse and can give you a chance to talk to your teenagers about how they feel. Make sure you speak to your teen in a kind, non-judgemental way that respects their sexuality, individuality and beliefs.
Ensure that your teenager understands that they are never to blame if someone tries to make them do things (sexually or emotionally) that they don’t want to do.
2. Make sure you both understand the different kinds of abuse
If you feel comfortable asking a teen if their partner displays these behaviours, do. If the answer is yes make your teenager aware that they can all lead to something more serious.
The signs can be more difficult to spot, but could include:
- Getting angry when you want to spend time with friends.
- Putting you down all the time, using names like ‘frigid’ or ‘slut’ to control what you do, humiliate you and damage your self-esteem.
- Trying to control your life (telling you how to dress, who to hang out with and what to say).
- Monitoring your calls and social media accounts, threatening you if you don’t respond instantly.
- Pressuring you to send them nude pictures.
If someone is lesbian, gay, bi or transgender and not ‘out’, their partner might threaten to ‘out’ them if they don’t do what they want.
Violence is sometimes used to force someone to do something or an abusive partner may threaten to use it to control them. It could include:
- Sexual. Forcing someone to do any sexual acts they don’t want to.
3. Look out for changes in behaviour
Relationship abuse can destroy someone’s self-confidence, have a negative impact on their health and wellbeing and leave them feeling isolated, lonely or depressed.
A teenager in an abusive relationship* may display the following behaviours:
- Isolation – no longer spending time with a usual circle of friends.
- Constantly checking a mobile phone, and getting upset when asked to turn it off.
- Physical signs of injury, such as unexplained scratches or bruises.
*Displaying these behaviours does not automatically mean a young person is in an abusive relationship.
4. Know where they can get support
There are many organisations that will provide help and resources available to help you and your child.
Teen friendly resources:
The Disrespect NoBody website hosts advice and guidance on relationship abuse, sexting, consent and pornography, along with the contact details of organisations that support teenagers and their families on these issues.
The Home Office Disrespect NoBody campaign helps young people to:
- understand what a healthy relationship is
- re-think their views of abuse, consent and controlling behaviour in relationships.
It aims to prevent the onset of domestic violence in both teen and adult relationships, by challenging attitudes and behaviours amongst young people that abuse in relationships is acceptable.
ChildLine has a free app called Zipit for young people. It hosts handy tips to help them take control of the situation when someone may be trying to pressure them into sending naked images.
The National Crime Agency’s CEOP education programme called Thinkuknow holds advice for young people and parents on abusive or exploitative relationships, the online world, sex, and relationships.
Guidance for parents:
Many of the organisations on the Disrespect NoBody website also provide support for parents. Extra advice can be found on:
For further materials on the Disrespect NoBody campaign, please visit gov.uk