Help for teenage girls

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any age – including young women and teenagers


If you’re worried about your boyfriend or partner’s behaviour, learn more about the warning signs of domestic violence.  Educating yourself about abuse could help you – or someone close to you – stay safe.


What is abuse?

Lucy*, who experienced domestic violence between the ages of 15 and 17, told Refuge: “I didn’t seek help from any organisation – I didn’t realize it was domestic violence because I felt I was too young.”

Abuse in teenage relationships is the same as abuse in older relationships – it’s all about power and control. 


If your partner is trying to control you by using fear, violence or intimidation, you are being abused.

If you have to change your behaviour in any way because you are scared of your partner’s reaction, you are being abused.

Domestic violence can take many different forms.  Physical and sexual abuse are the easiest to spot, since they may leave marks and bruises.  But remember – you don’t have to be hit to be abused.  Emotional, psychological and financial control are also very serious forms of domestic violence.  

Domestic violence often escalates over time – what starts as verbal and emotional abuse can turn into physical violence.

The facts

  • More than half of young adults aged 16-21 reported experiencing controlling behaviour from a partner, according to ‘Define the Line’, a 2017 study by Refuge and Avon
  • One third (32%) of young people said that a controlling partner had prevented them living their life, and 2 in 5 (39%) think these types of behaviours are not talked about enough, according to the ‘Define the Line’ study
  • Over half of young women aged 18-21 reported experiencing at least one abusive incident from a boyfriend, husband or partner in a 2009 Refuge and YouGov survey
  • 2009 research by Bristol University and the NSPCC showed that 27% of teenage girls aged 13-17 had experienced sexual violence in their relationships
  • A 2005 NSPCC and Sugar magazine survey showed that 40% of teenage girls would consider giving their boyfriend another chance if he hit them, and one third said that cheating justified the use of violence
  • In a 2009 NSPCC survey, one quarter of girls aged 13-17 reported experiencing intimate partner violence; one in nine female respondents had experienced severe physical violence; and almost three quarters of girls had experienced emotional abuse

Click here to download ‘Violence against young women and teenage girls: the myths’

Am I being abused?

  • Is your boyfriend very jealous and possessive of you?
  • Does he get angry when you want to spend time with your friends or demand that you spend all your time with him?
  • Does he check your phone, email, Facebook and twitter accounts?
  • Does he try and get you to defriend people on Facebook, take down your photos, or stop you messaging your friends?
  • Is he always calling, texting or BBMing you to check where you are and who you’re with?
  • Does he tell you what to wear or how to do your hair?
  • Does he laugh at you or put you down in front of other people?
  • Does he get aggressive?  Does he hit, shove, slap or kick you?
  • Does he threaten to harm you – or himself?
  • Does he call you names?
  • Does he pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to, telling you that “everyone is doing it” or that you would do it “if you really loved him”?

If you are frightened of your partner, or feel that you have to change your behaviour because you are scared of his reaction, you are being abused.

What can I do?

If you are being abused, it may help to remember the following:

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 999.  The police have a duty to investigate and help you stay safe
  • You are not alone.  Refuge helps many young women and teenage girls who are experiencing abuse.  We can help you too
  • The abuse is not your fault.  Your partner may blame you for his behaviour – perhaps saying that you “made him hit you” – but he alone is responsible for his actions
  • Abuse is never ok.  You deserve to be with someone who respects you and makes you feel safe
  • You don’t have to deal with this on your own.  Try and talk to someone you trust – perhaps a friend, teacher or parent.  Or call the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Refuge and Women’s Aid.  We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  All calls are confidential
  • Computers and mobile phones can be used by abusers to monitor and stalk partners.  Read more on how to keep safe here

Worried about a friend?

If you are worried that a friend or loved one is being abused, there are things you can do to help. 

Your friend might be feeling very lonely.  She might feel too embarrassed or scared to talk about the abuse.  Let her know that you are worried about her and that you are there if she wants to talk.

Give her time.  It might take a while before she feels like she can truly open up to you. 

Don’t judge her or tell her what to do.  She may feel that she still loves her abuser or that she wants to give him another chance.  It’s natural to want your friend to be safe, but she has to make her own decisions in her own time.

Tell her that the abuse is not her fault.  Encourage her to visit Refuge’s website or call the Helpline. 

Refuge and Avon’s 1in4women campaign provides lots of information on how to support a friend or family member experiencing domestic violence. Go to to find out more.

Case study

Lucy’s* story

I first met Mark* when I was 15 and he was 16.  He was kind and charming, and he was the first boy to show me any real attention.  The first few months of our relationship were amazing – he made me feel so special.

Mark was protective from the beginning, going miles out of his way to walk me home in the evenings.  I had no reason to think that he was being anything other than caring, until one day I was away on a school trip and he hacked into my emails.  He broke up with me because he found a message I’d sent to another boy months earlier. Afterwards, he agreed to get back together, but from that point onwards I was wary about using the internet – I was worried about what he’d do if he saw something he didn’t like.

We started to argue more frequently.  Mark would deliberately call me names he knew would hurt me, like fat, ugly and, most of all, stupid. He would call me a slag or a whore, even though he knew I’d never been with anyone else.  The emotional, verbal abuse became more and more intense – at one point he started threatening to kill me.

One day we were walking home from town when he started an argument.  He pushed me against the wall, grabbed my wrist, and forced my arm up, twisting it so badly that he tore my ligaments. I fell to the floor crying in shock.  I never would have believed that he’d lay a finger on me.  When he saw me crying on the floor, he apologised profusely, but over time the abuse became worse and worse.  He kicked me and tried to strangle me on several occasions – he even pulled a knife on me once. He punched me so hard on the hip during an attack that I couldn’t do my jeans up because of the swelling. He never hit me on the face, so the bruises were hidden. 

I tried to cover up the abuse because I felt ashamed. At the hospital, I would make up accidents to explain injuries, and once I told friends and family that I’d been attacked in the street.

Over time, I became isolated from my friends because I had to spend all my time with Mark.  I loved him and gradually, he was all I had left. 

At first I found it difficult to accept that I was experiencing domestic violence.  I believed that the abuse was my fault and that I could stop it.  I wish I had known Refuge was there to support me. Things are going much better for me now, but I would urge anyone who’s experiencing domestic violence to reach out for support, call Refuge or talk to someone about what you’re going through. Don’t cover it up.

*names have been changed


Further support and information

This is Abuse

Broken Rainbow

  • Offers support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people experiencing domestic violence.
  • 0300 999 5428


  • The UK’s free and confidential helpline provides help for young people of all ages who are in distress or danger.
  • 0800 1111

Rape Crisis

  • Rape Crisis centres offer a range of services for women and girls who have been raped or experienced another form of sexual violence.
  • 0808 802 9999


  • Respect runs programmes for men and women who inflict violence in relationships.  They also provide an advice line for male victims of domestic violence.
  • 0808 802 4040