For Teens: How to know if you’re in an abusive dating relationship

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Meet Taylor, a 15-year-old high school student. Taylor has been dating Alex for six months. Recently, Taylor appears sad and has stopped hanging out with friends. When friends ask to hang out, Taylor will run it by Alex but will cancel plans with friends when Alex says no. Taylor has been acting differently at home, spending less time with family. When Taylor and Alex are together, Alex becomes upset with what Taylor wears and will yell at and call Taylor names. Alex checks Taylor’s phone frequently without permission and will become upset when other’s comment or like Taylor’s posts or pictures. Taylor has had sex with Alex, even when Taylor does not want to. A week ago, Alex shoved Taylor against the wall, apologized, promised it would not happen again, but then blamed Taylor for making Alex upset.

If you or someone you know is in a relationship like Taylor’s, then you or a loved one are in an abusive relationship. Taylor represents the 1 in 3 teens that will experience teen dating violence. Some of Alex’s behaviors may not seem abusive. It may even appear that Alex really cares and is being just a “little jealous” and just overprotective.

However, Alex’s behaviors are abusive and unhealthy. 

Abuse can come in many shapes and forms, not just physically. Dating violence can happen to anyone, no matter your age, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. Forms of dating violence include:

Emotional/Verbal Abuse

  • Your partner calls you names
  • Your partner humiliates or embarrasses you in public
  • Your partner makes threats to hurt you, your pet or a loved one
  • Your partner makes threats to hurt themselves if you leave them or end the relationship
  • Your partner controls who you talk to or go out with
  • Your partner checks your phone to see who you talk to
  • Your partner controls what you wear
  • Your partner threats to “out” you if you are in an LGBTQ relationship and others do not know

Sexual Abuse

  • Your partner touches or kisses you when you do not want them to
  • Your partner forces or coerces you to have sex
  • Your partner rapes or attempts to rape you
  • Your partner refuses to use a condom or prohibits you from using birth control

Digital Abuse

  • Your partner controls your social media and who you can be friends with online
  • Your partner posts insulting comments on your posts
  • Your partner hacks into your accounts (e-mail and social media)

It is important that you know that you deserve a loving and respectful relationship.

A healthy relationship includes communication, respect and boundaries. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, know that there is help and you are not alone.

Maybe you are afraid to speak up because you feel like no one will believe you or that you will be blamed. Maybe you are afraid that you will get your partner in trouble and you do not want them to get in trouble because you care for them. It is normal to care for someone who has hurt you, but it is not healthy to stay with them.

Remaining in an abusive relationship can lead to short term and long term effects on your self-esteem, mental health (you may become depressed, anxious or suicidal), and future relationships as an adult.

 If you are unsure of how to get out of an abusive relationship start off with identifying safe adults. This can mean your parents, a relative, a teacher, a counselor, or a therapist.

If you feel you cannot identify a safe adult, there are resources like:

  • Love is Respect: You can chat with a counselor via their website, or can text “loveis” to 22522. You can also call their hotline at (866) 331-9474. All forms of communication are available 24/7.
  • The Guidance Center: You can call  (562) 595-1159 to be connected with a therapist in greater Long Beach, San Pedro, Lynwood, Paramount, Compton or Avalon on Catalina Island.


Diana Cruz, LCSWDiana Cruz, LCSW is a Clinical Therapist in The Guidance Center’s Long Beach Outpatient Program, where she helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. She is especially passionate about partnering with teens and their guardians to help them build healthy relationships within their families and externally with their friends and significant others. Before joining The Guidance Center team in 2012, Cruz worked with veterans and their families as a MSW intern. Cruz earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work at University of Southern California.

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