young people 685Support for young people

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

“I didn’t seek help from any organisation – I didn’t realise it was domestic violence because I felt I was too young.”

Lucy*, who experienced abuse between the ages of 15 and 17

It’s totally normal to fall out with your partner from time to time. But when someone you’re going out with hurts you and makes you feel bad on a regular basis, that’s not okay. Abuse in teenage relationships is the same as abuse in older relationships – it’s all about one person trying to control and have power over someone else.

Ask yourself: do you feel frightened of your boyfriend? Do you change your behaviour, your clothes, or avoid saying or doing certain things because you’re worried about how he’ll react? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘yes’, your boyfriend is being abusive.

Abuse can take many different forms. Physical and sexual abuse are the easiest to spot. But remember – you don’t have to be hit to be abused. Emotional, psychological and financial control are also very serious.

Abuse often escalates over time. What starts as name-calling and insults can turn into physical violence. That’s why it’s so important for you to reach out to a trusted adult or organisation if you are concerned about experiencing domestic violence.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

One in two young women have experienced controlling behaviour in a relationship

  • A third of young people said that how a controlling partner had treated them prevented them living their life
  • One in three young people said they found it difficult to define the line between a caring action and a controlling one
  • Over a third (37%) of young people would not know where, or who, to turn to for support if they were experiencing abuse

Refuge and Avon’s ‘Define the Line’ study (2017)

41% of UK girls aged 14-17 in an intimate relationship experienced some form of sexual violence from their partner

University of Central Lancashire (2015) Written submission from the Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm

59% of girls aged 13-21 reported in 2014 some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year

Girl Guiding’s Social Attitudes Survey (2014)

41% of men aged 18–24 say a woman is totally or partly to blame for her sexual assault if she goes out late at night, wears a short skirt and gets drunk

The Fawcett Society (2017), Sounds Familiar

Click here to find out more about Refuge’s Define the Line campaign

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

It’s sometimes difficult to admit that someone you really like is deliberately hurting you. It can also be hard to tell if your partner is being abusive – especially if they tell you that you’re to blame for their actions. But abuse is never your fault. Nothing you do can make your boyfriend abuse you; he alone is responsible.

Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself to help you understand if you are experiencing abuse. If any of the behaviours described below sound familiar, don’t worry – there is support available.

  • 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, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter accounts?
  • Does he try and get you to de-friend people on Facebook, take down your photos, or stop you messaging your friends?
  • Is he always calling, texting or messaging 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.

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. Helpline workers are here for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All calls are confidential.

If you’ve been physically hurt, or feel like you are in immediate danger, call 999. The police have a duty to investigate and keep you safe.

It may help to remember that:

  • You are not alone. Refuge helps support many young women and teenage girls, just like you, who are experiencing abuse
  • The abuse is not your fault. Your partner may blame you for his behaviour – perhaps saying that you “made him hurt you” – but he alone is responsible for his actions
  • Abuse is never okay. You deserve to be with someone who respects you and makes you feel safe

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 partner, despite what he’s done, 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 National Domestic Violence Helpline.

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