Abusive relationships

The most common forms of abuse in relationships and what to do if you're experiencing it

You’ll have various relationships throughout your life, and while they’ll often be great experiences, you might also find yourself in a relationship that’s unhealthy or abusive. The word ‘abusive’ can mean lots of different things, and it might not always be obvious to you that this is what’s going on.


The most important thing to remember is that abusive relationships of any kind are not normal or acceptable. You have a right to be safe and respected, and should always take action if you feel like you’re being mistreated.  

Here are the most common forms of abuse in relationships:

Emotional abuse - In young relationships, this is the most common kind of abuse. A partner might insult you, manipulate you or humiliate you, particularly in front of your friends.

Verbal abuse - Verbal abuse, which could involve yelling, name-calling, swearing, or threatening is also common in young relationships. Recent research reveals that up to 40% of teenage girls have been verbally abused by a partner.

Controlling behaviour - Controlling behaviour includes things such as monitoring your texts or Facebook messages, creating rules about what you can or can’t wear, or dictating how you should spend your time. If you are being treated in this way, you might feel you are losing a sense of independence and start making decisions based on your partner’s reaction. 

Physical and sexual abuse – Though less common, you may experience physical violence or assault. This could include being hit or pushed over, being or feeling forced into sex, or being touched intimately without your consent.

Controlling, coercive, or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse could be treated as a criminal offence. If you have been victim to any of the above, you must report this to the police. 

If you think you’re in an abusive relationship, you may find it difficult to talk about. It is common to feel ashamed about what has happened, and you might be scared of your partner’s reaction if they find out you have told anyone. Unfortunately, it is also very natural for those in abusive relationships to convince themselves that their partner’s behaviour is acceptable or that they are in the wrong, which isn’t true. You don’t deserve to be abusedeverybody has the right to be treated with love, care and respect.

You must put yourself first and get help wherever you can at the earliest opportunity, whether that be from a parent or carer, or a trusted friend or adult. There is always a solution or way of escape, and you will eventually be able to move forward with your life and be happy again.

If you think you might be in an abusive relationship and don’t yet feel like you can confide in somebody you know, you can come to us for advice and support by calling the Family Lives helpline on 0808 800 2222. All calls are free from landlines and most mobiles, and everything you tell us will be kept confidential. The Citizens Advice Bureau also offer lots of useful advice about how to report abuse and what you can do if you feel unsafe.  

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