It’s not always easy to know if what is happening in your relationship is abuse. Here are some questions that can help.
Does Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend:
- Call you names, put you down or embarrass you in front of other people?
- Check up on you through text messages or phone calls to see where you are and who you are with, then get angry if you don’t respond?
- Tell you what kind of clothes or makeup you can and can't wear?
- Keep you away from your friends or family and insist you spend all your time together?
- Demand to know where you are and who you are with at all times?
- Physically hurt you or threaten to hurt you, your friends, family, or pets? Threaten to hurt him or herself if you break up with them?
- Force you to do things you don't want to do? Alcohol? Drugs? Sex?
- Tell you the abuse is your fault?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, or if you have experienced anything in your relationship that makes you uncomfortable, trust your instincts. If things don’t feel right to you, they probably aren’t. It is important to know that you are not alone and that the abuse is not your fault.
If you think you are being abused, you can:
- Call the police or 911 if you are in danger.
- See a doctor or go to the hospital if you are injured or have been sexually assaulted. If you have been assaulted, it is best to go to the hospital within 72 hours of the assault, and not to shower or change clothes before seeking medical help.
- Talk to a trusted teacher*, adult, parent, or friend. Just telling someone what is happening can be the first step in changing your situation.
- Create a safety plan that includes people you can talk to and safe places you can go if you are feeling unsafe and/or if the abuse happens again.
- Talk to a domestic violence advocate who can help you explore your options so that you can make the choice that is right for you. Find one by calling the New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906, English & español/Multi-language Accessibility. Deaf or Hard of Hearing: 711
- Talk to a peer advocate by calling The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453.
- Report the abuse to your Principal or Dean of Students.
- Visit your school psychologist or counseling center if you would like to talk with someone.
- Go into a shelter: any person 16 years or older can go into a domestic violence shelter if they are a victim of dating or family abuse. Call the NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence hotline to find the shelter in your area.
* Be aware that some school and university staff may be required to report the abuse if they have enough information. If you do not want to make a formal report, ask about confidentiality requirements or limitations 0before revealing too much specific information.
If you are being abused by your boyfriend or girlfriend, you can seek help from police, the courts or an advocate. You can:
- Call the 911 or your local police. To learn more about what the police can do to help you, see the Police and Courts section of Finding Safety and Support.
- Get an Order of Protection: An Order of Protection (OP) is an official court document that is signed by a judge and officially given (served) to the abusive person. The OP clearly tells the abusive person how they must behave toward their boyfriend or girlfriend (the protected party) and can contain several different requirements. If the abusive person does not obey the OP and its requirements, the individual can be charged with a crime.
- You can request an order of protection in Family Court or Criminal Court. Navigating the court system is very complicated and is best done with a knowledgeable professional. For more information about getting an OP, see the Police and Courts section of Finding Safety and Support.
- Talk with a domestic violence advocate if you are unsure about what you want to do. They can explain your options and help you think through what might be best for your specific situation.
Ending an abusive relationship can be harder than it seems. Even though friends and family may pressure you to simply leave your partner, it may not be easy. It is normal for you to feel scared and confused about leaving someone who has been a big part of your life.
Some people don’t want the relationship to end; they just want the abuse to stop. Here’s a quiz that might help you understand more about abuse and how people change.
Abusers often use break ups to escalate their violent and abusive behavior, so deciding to leave an abuser can increase your level of danger, even when leaving feels like the best possible choice for you. Whether you decide to stay or leave an abuser, it’s important that you develop a safety plan specific to your situation.
If you decide you want to end an abusive relationship, talk to someone first. A parent, school counselor or social worker, or domestic violence advocate can help you think about your situation and decide how to handle it. Consider the following when talking with someone:
- If you feel unsafe breaking up with your partner, you might want to do it over the phone, by email, or in public with a friend nearby.
- If attending parties or events or any place where your ex may be, go with a friend and have a safety plan in place.
- You may miss your partner or worry about being alone. Talk to your friends and family who can help support you, or consider seeing a counselor.
- Set all social media accounts to private; block your ex, change all of your passwords, and/or remove them/defriend them.
- Don’t repeatedly explain your reasons for leaving to your partner; they will never be good enough for a controlling or abusive partner.
- Consider blocking their phone number if you continue to receive harassing phone calls or texts.
- Keep any evidence such as harassing text messages or voicemails in case you decide to go to the police. Take screenshots of images and online communications including any threatening contact that the abuser has with any of your friends, family, or classmates.
If you have been sexually assaulted, the first thing to know is that it is not your fault. No one ever has the right to make you to do something that you don’t want to do sexually, no matter what!
If you (or a friend) have been the victim of a sexual assault:
- Get medical help as soon as possible to receive care for any injuries or for the potential of sexually transmitted diseases and possible pregnancy.
- Do not bathe, shower, douche, change clothes, or comb/spray hair until a health care provider tells you it's OK.
- Also, don’t using the bathroom, gargle or drink anything.
These things should all be avoided because they could reduce the chance of obtaining evidence of the assault.
Your physical health and well-being is important and a health care provider also can help you find an advocate or counselor for additional support and help.
In addition to getting medical care, you can agree to have any injuries documented and evidence collected in case you want to report the crime to police, either immediately or at a later time.
If you choose to have any injuries documented and evidence collected, here are some important things you should know:
- A health care provider will collect and document the evidence.
- The clothes you are wearing may be kept as evidence.
- Once collected, evidence will be kept in a locked, separate and secure area at the health care facility for a minimum of one month, which gives you time to decide whether you want to report the assault to police.
- If you decide to report the crime, the evidence will be provided to the police.
Talk to someone. Contact friends, family or someone you trust for help and support, like an RA (Resident Assistant or Advisor) or school counselor*. They can support you and help you decide whether you want to report the assault to police or your school.
For help with deciding where to go for medical help and/or support services in your community:
- Call the New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906, English & español/Multi-language Accessibility. Deaf or Hard of Hearing: 711. The hotline is confidential.
- Find a rape crisis or crime victim assistance program near you.
NOTE: Some adults are required to report the abuse, which means they may have to report the assault if you tell them about it, depending on your age. If you don’t want to report it or aren’t sure, it’s best to ask people about that before giving them too much information. Calling a confidential hotline that doesn’t require you give your name might be the safest option if you are worried about the assault being reported.
For more information:
Common stalking behaviors, which can happen during the relationship or after it’s over:
- Following you, waiting, showing up, or driving by wherever you are, such as your home, school, or job.
- Constantly calling (including hang-ups), texting, leaving voicemails.
- Sending you unwanted letters, cards, e-mails, or gifts.
- Monitoring your phone calls or computer use.
- Tracking you with GPS or through social media.
- Using your friends, (often unsuspecting) family, or classmates to “keep tabs” on you.
Some stalking behavior may not seem dangerous to an outsider, but stalking is serious and should be treated that way. If you are being stalked, keep a record of what is happening so that you’ll have it as evidence if you decide to get help from the police or court, and create a safety plan.
For more information on stalking, including New York State’s stalking laws, visit:
Safety planning is a tool to help you to identify options, evaluate those options, and come up with a plan to reduce your risk when faced with the threat of harm or with actual harm. When you are in a relationship that is abusive, no matter what type of abuse, a safety plan can help you know how to respond to different situations. There’s no right or wrong way to develop a safety plan and it will look different for everyone.
Step 1. Use what you already know about your relationship. You probably know the person you have been seeing pretty well. If not, you still may have gotten a feel for what triggers them or sets them off. You also know yourself pretty well. Think about the times in your relationship when you have felt uncomfortable or afraid. Thinking about these things will help you come up different ways to handle them if they happen again.
Step 2. Use your resources. Do you have a friend you can trust who you can talk this out with? Do your parents know about the abuse? How about a teacher or other trusted person in your life like a neighbor or uncle? You can also reach out to a domestic violence advocate because no one should have to do this alone.
Step 3. Plan for every situation. Safety plans can be made for a variety of different situations, including:
- Responding to threatened or actual abuse;
- Continuing to date your partner;
- Seeing your partner at school;
- Planning for your safety after ending a relationship, because that can be the most dangerous time.
Here are some things to think about when creating a safety plan, whether you are still dating or planning to break up with your partner:
- Is there a code word you can use with friends and family if things are getting out of hand with your partner and you want to let someone know without your partner finding out?
- If you are at home alone with your partner, is there someone nearby, like a neighbor, who you can go to if you need to get out?
- Can you put the domestic violence hotline number in your phone under a different name? This way, if your partner goes through your contacts they will just see someone’s name.
- If your partner is being emotionally or psychologically abusive can you talk to a counselor or therapist to help you with your self-esteem? Do you have things that make you happy?
- Do you know someone who can give you a ride if you ever need one?
- Can you change classes at school or alter your work schedule?
- Can you change any passwords that your partner might have to your online accounts? Can you block your partner on social media, and maybe even their friends?
- Do you want to get an order of protection? Do you know what it means to have an order of protection?
- If you have kids, do you have a custody order?
- Does your partner have a key to your house? Can you ask your parents to change the lock, or make sure someone is home with you at all times?
Remember, these are just some ideas to get you started. You can always call the New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906, English & español/Multi-language Accessibility. Deaf or Hard of Hearing: 711 to get help making a safety plan that is right for you.
Protect Yourself Online
Enhance your safety when using technology:
- Keep passwords private and change them often. Don’t use passwords that are easy to figure out, like your pet’s name or important dates.
- Use the privacy settings on social media sites and check them often to make sure they haven’t changed.
- Think about your friend and follower lists and remember that people who are friends of your friends might be able to see your online activity.
- Delete the history and “cookies” from your web browser from time to time so it is harder to track your online activity.
- Contact your cell phone company to have a phone number blocked if you are getting harassing calls or text messages.
Remember, be careful. If you make changes to how you use technology while you are being abused and/or stalked, it can increase danger for you if your partner realizes what you are doing. It’s a good idea to talk to an advocate before making changes to be sure you are doing things in the safest way possible.
For more on Technology and Dating Abuse, visit: