Spotting abusive behaviour

If you feel that you’re scared, alone, bullied or forced to do things you don’t want to do by your girlfriend or boyfriend, this is relationship abuse.

This content has been written for children and young people. If you’re looking for information for over 18s, visit our Types of Crime information about spotting abusive behaviour.

A healthy relationship should make you feel happy – not controlled, trapped, threatened or hurt.

If you’re feeling like this, it’s important that you don’t blame yourself. No one should be abused in a relationship and this situation isn’t your fault.

A young couple standing together

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognise that you’re in an abusive relationship. Even if you do realise that things are not right, you may think that you are partly to blame for what is happening. Remember, you haven’t done anything wrong, and there are people who can help you to stay safe and end the abuse.

An abusive partner in a relationship may:

  • make threats and do things to scare you
  • put you down to make you feel bad, when you’re alone or around friends
  • make you do things that you don’t want to do
  • make you feel guilty if you don’t spend time with them
  • not try to get on with your friends or family
  • hit, slap or push you (assault)
  • look through your phone, social media or web browsing history
  • want to know where you are all the time
  • cheat on you, or accuse you of cheating on them
  • steal from you (theft) or make you buy them things
  • make you have sex when you don’t want to (rape)
  • make you do sexual things that you don’t want to, including sex crimes such as rape or sexual assault, or online sex crimes such as posting sexual photos of someone online.

If any of these things are happening to you, or you’re worried about a friend who is in a relationship where this is happening, there are things you can do to make sure you stay safe and end the abuse:

  • Tell an adult you trust – this could be a teacher, a family member, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation; we have some tips on asking for help.
  • Lots of things that can happen in an abusive relationship – such as sexual assault or rapeassault and theft – are crimes, so think about reporting it to the police. If you’re at immediate risk of getting hurt, call 999.
  • Keep a record of things that happen (if it’s safe to). Don’t keep this where the abusive person can find it.
  • With a safe adult, you could develop a safety plan that would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe.
  • Talk to your friends. A good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult.

If you are worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help. If you are worried about this happening at home, for example to a parent, this may be domestic violence.

They say they love me, is this still abuse?

If the person you are in a relationship with is upsetting, threatening or hurting you, this is relationship abuse. They may still say that they love you, but nobody has the right to do this to you. In a healthy relationship you should be treated with respect, your opinions valued, you should be encouraged to achieve and try hard, and be listened to when you talk about your feelings.

I’m a boy, can this happen to me?

Relationship abuse can happen to anyone – to boys or girls, men or women. It can also happen in relationships between boys and girls and in same sex (gay or lesbian) relationships.

I’m scared that they will hurt me if I leave?

Leaving a relationship can make your partner angry and may lead to them being more violent towards you. If you’re planning to leave your partner, there are people who can help you do this as safely as possible. If you feel you are in immediate danger, ring the police on 999. All police officers are now trained in domestic abuse and relationship abuse and will help keep you safe.

I’m pregnant and scared for myself and my baby?

When you’re in an abusive relationship and are pregnant, you and your baby are at risk. It can feel overwhelming having to protect yourself and your baby. Your local children’s services have a duty to help keep you and your baby safe. Many young people are worried about talking to a social worker from children’s services as they think this will mean that their baby is taken away. However, children’s services will want to help keep you and your baby safe and together with the right support to help you. You can go to your local council offices and ask for help – think about taking a trusted adult with you to support you.

Victim Support’s Children and Young People Services – you can contact your nearest Victim Support office, call the 24/7 Supportline, contact us via live chat, or if you are 16 or older, you can create a My Support Space account. This is a free, safe and secure online space where you can work through interactive guides to help you move forward after crime.

Childline – offer 24-hour support for young people on a range of issues: 0800 1111

National Domestic Abuse Helpline – free, 24-hour helpline for women provides information and advice if you are experiencing domestic violence yourself, or if you’re worried about someone else: 0808 2000 247

The Hide Out – helps children and young people understand more about domestic violence and what they can do.

The Mix – provides information and support for under 25s on a whole range of issues, including rape and sexual assault as well as safe sexual relationships. Get confidential help by email, text, webchat or phone: 0808 808 4994.

Brook – helps young people to make positive and healthy lifestyle choices, and to improve their personal and sexual health and emotional well-being.

Think U Know – provides information for children and young people on sex, relationships and the internet.