What Does Teen Dating Abuse Look Like?

What Does Teen Dating Abuse Look Like?

What Does Teen Dating Abuse Look Like?

What Does Teen Dating Abuse Look Like?

There are a lot of ways a person might control or abuse their partner. Not all relationships include all of the things listed below and there may be other ways people are being abused not mentioned below.

Power & Control Wheel

Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse

Physical violence is the most easily recognizable type of abuse because it often leaves a mark. But any kind of unwanted contact is still violence and it often escalates in severity as time goes on. Some examples of physical abuse are:

  • Pushing, shoving, biting, spitting, slapping, shaking, punching, scratching, kicking, or holding you down.
  • Throwing things at you or in your direction.
  • Breaking your property, punching holes in the wall, throwing things.
  • Interfering with you while you’re driving.
  • Pushing their hand against your face, covering your mouth and nose, or squeezing your neck so you can’t breathe
  • Grabbing your face so you have to look at them.
  • Using a weapon or threating to use a weapon.
  • Not letting you leave by blocking a doorway.
  • Not letting you call the police.

Verbal, Emotional & Psychological Abuse

Verbal, Emotional & Psychological Abuse

Abuse isn’t always physical. Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse are sometimes harder to identify or understand. These behaviors aren’t always obvious, but they can often escalate to physical abuse over time. Here are some examples:

  • Insulting you, calling you names, criticizing you or embarrassing you in public.
  • Telling you that no one else will ever love you, that you’re worthless, or useless.
  • Telling you what to do, who you can and cannot see, and what to wear.
  • Not trusting you, being jealous and accusing you of cheating.
  • Constantly checking up on you.
  • Reading your emails, texts, DMs or Facebook messages. Stealing your passwords or coercing you to give them your passwords.
  • Not letting you make your own decisions.
  • Getting mad if you get a text from someone else, don’t respond right away or spend time with other people.
  • Telling you that you are the reason they are abusive.
  • Abandoning you on the side of the road while driving somewhere.
  • Threating to use a weapon or reminding you that they have the ability to get a weapon or have other people hurt you.
  • Making you feel guilty about a decision you made or something you said or did.
  • Threatening to harm you or commit suicide.
  • Starting rumors or threatening to start rumors.
  • Threatening to expose your secrets or private photos.

Another type of psychological abuse that often takes place in abusive relationships is called “gaslighting,” which makes one partner feel like they can’t trust their own instincts, judgment and sense of reality. Gaslighting makes a person more dependent on their abusive partner because they feel like they can’t trust themselves. Some examples are:

  • Refusing to listen to you.
  • Telling you that you are overreacting.
  • Telling you that you aren’t remembering things correctly or that you made things up.
  • Making you feel bad about being upset.
  • Constantly changing the subject and not letting you talk.

Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse might be more subtle than you think. Controlling what you wear might not be as obvious as “I don’t want you wearing that.” Instead, it could be “I really like it better when you wear the blue dress.

The same thing goes for sexting. Sometimes, an abusive partner will coerce you to do something that you do not want to do, but will make it seem like they are asking you to do it to build trust and intimacy. An abusive partner might not say, “Sext me or else!” They might repeatedly ask you for nude pictures after you have said no by saying, “Please baby, don’t you trust me? I just want something to look at when you’re not here.”

If it makes you feel uncomfortable, it might be abuse.

Isolation & Intimidation

Isolation & Intimidation

Isolation is a common tactic in abusive relationships. While it may look different from relationship to relationship, creating a sense of dependence on the abusive partner by separating the victim from other forms of support is always the goal. Here are some examples:

  • Not letting you see your friends or family, only wanting you to hang out with them.
  • Getting annoyed or upset when you spend time on the phone with other people or respond to their texts.
  • Wanting to live together very early in the relationship.
  • Wanting to move far away from your support system.
  • Making you feel guilty for spending time with other friends and family. “If you really loved me, you’d want to spend your time with me.”
  • Telling you that your friends or family don’t understand your relationship and being overly concerned with what they say to you.

The goal of intimidation is to make you afraid so you are less likely to seek help. Here are some examples of types of intimidation:

  • Using looks, actions and gestures to scare you.
  • Standing in a doorway or otherwise refusing to let you leave.
  • Displaying weapons or regularly talking about weapons.
  • Vaguely talking about violence, such as what could happen or what they are capable of.
  • Driving recklessly, threatening to crash the car, etc.
  • Threatening that if you tell anyone or call the police something bad will happen.
  • Smashing things, destroying your property or throwing things near or at you.
  • Hurting or threatening to hurt your pets, children, family or friends.



Many people equate stalking with being followed by a stranger. In reality, stalking is more often committed by someone close to you, and includes more than being followed. The goal of a stalker is to make you feel afraid, like you don’t have any control. Stalking can involve:

  • Following you.
  • Waiting, showing up or driving by wherever you are, such as your home, school, or job.
  • Using spoofing apps to call you so they show up as a different person in your phone.
  • Constantly calling or texting.
  • Sending unwanted letters, cards, emails, or gifts.
  • Monitoring your phone calls or computer use with or without your knowledge.
  • Using social media to track your location.
  • Calling you at work or calling your boss and coworkers.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse

More teens are raped by people they know than by strangers.

Sexual abuse is any sexual behavior that is unwanted and that is carried out without consent from both partners. While force or coercion is usually involved, any kind of pressure is still considered sexual abuse. This may also include trying to control your own decisions about your sexuality and reproductive rights.

Here are some examples of what sexual abuse can look like:

  • Physically forcing you to have sex.
  • Coercing you to have sex or making you feel guilty for not wanting to by saying things like: “That’s what girlfriends do;” “If you loved me you would;” “You’re such a prude;” “But you wanted it the other night” or “But you did ______ with your last girlfriend.”
  • Threating to out you, hurt you or spread rumors about you if you refuse to do what they want.
  • Unwanted kissing or touching.
  • Not letting you use birth control or knowingly exposing you to HIV or other STDs
  • Forcing you to have a baby or forcing you to terminate a pregnancy.
  • Using drugs or alcohol so that you have less control of your ability to stay in control.
  • Forcing you to have sex with others or forcing you to watch pornography.

What is Consent?

Consent is an agreement between two people, given through words or actions, that they are both clearly and enthusiastically willing to engage in sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance does not count as consent.

Some people aren’t able to give consent – individuals who are drunk, sleeping or unconscious – and some with intellectual disabilities. Consent involves active communication, and knowing that one person always has to right to withdraw consent. This means that someone can consent to one activity (kissing) but not consent to another (sex). Consent, like sex, should be about respecting each other to make their own decisions about their body.

Getting consent can be simple: it’s all about communication. Talk about boundaries before engaging sexual activity but also check in with a simple “is this okay?” to ensure everyone involved is comfortable with what is going on.

Still have more questions about consent? Watch this video.

How to respond if someone is pressuring you.

If you think you might have been sexually abused, please seek help on our “Getting Help” section or call New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906, English & español/Multi-language Accessibility. Deaf or Hard of Hearing: 711

If you are at a SUNY School, check out How SUNY campuses are responding to sexual violence.

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