As teenagers, we may not have the experience necessary to know the red flags of abuse. The dictionary definition of “abuse” is: to use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose. There are three kinds of abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual. These can occur in any relationship and to anyone; therefore, understanding the signs and knowing how to remove yourself from the situation is vital. Hopefully, you may never have to use these tips yourself, but they can also come in handy if someone you know is in distress.
Physical abuse is the most well-known type of abuse. It includes the abuser hitting, slapping, grabbing, choking, pushing, kicking, breaking objects out of anger, reckless driving, or even blocking an exit if the victim tries to leave. Physical abuse does not always leave a mark, such as a scratch or a bruise. It usually starts with something small – like only one slap – but it can get intense over time. The abuser may also be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They will typically blame the victim at first, claiming that the victim was the cause of their violent behavior, but will then apologize and promise not to do any of it again afterward to gain the victim’s sympathy. Visible signs of physical abuse include:
Victims who have these markings may try to cover up by wearing long sleeves or sunglasses.
Physical abuse may be the most well-known type of abuse, but emotional abuse has been the most reported abuse type. According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 76% of teenagers have experienced emotional abuse, which includes verbal abuse, embarrassment, and isolation. Victims can experience low self-esteem from their partners bringing them down and less social time from their partners restraining them from seeing friends and family. Additionally, victims may feel reliant on their abusers because abusers can make them feel embarrassed. Most notably, abusers will manipulate and control their victims. You may notice this is happening to someone you know if they:
do not want to engage in their normal daily activities/routine
are using drugs or alcohol
show suicidal behaviors
are scared to upset their partner
are experiencing mood swings
One in three women and one in four men experience sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the CDC. Sexual abuse occurs when an abuser uses force to engage in sexual activity with their victim without the victim’s consent. The age of consent in the United States is 18 years old. Abusers may tell their victims to dress sexually, call the victim sexual names, demand sex when the victim does not want to, and ignore the victim’s feelings about sex. Victims of sexual abuse will often:
avoid specific people or places
have low self-esteem
have new sexually transmitted infections
have newfound anxiety
have disturbed sleep or nightmares
Therapy can help victims straighten out their emotions, restore their confidence, and develop coping skills.
Everyone deserves to be safe, loved, happy, and treated with respect, but bad things can happen to good people. If you have realized you are in an abusive relationship, try to make up a reasonable excuse for leaving the house or area. You can also come up with code words or signals that will discreetly let the people around you know that you are in danger so that they can call the police. To escape efficiently, always be prepared to leave suddenly. Your car’s gas tank should be full, and you should have a spare key hidden from the abuser. Memorize the phone numbers or emails of the people you trust if you need a place to stay or if you need to get a ride. If you believe your abuser is monitoring you, use a friend’s phone or get a second phone to obtain official help from the police or the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at 1-800-799-7233.
Nobody deserves to be abused in any way, and the abuse is never the victim’s fault. Abuse is not justifiable to any extent. If someone approaches you and admits that they are in an abusive relationship of any kind, do not judge them. Encourage them to seek help immediately from a trusted adult or health professional. Victims should never feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their situations. You are not alone.