Brian and Sarah began dating, all of her friends
were jealous. Brian seemed like the perfect guy:
smart, sensitive, funny, athletic, and good-looking.
For the first couple of months, Sarah thought
she had never been happier. She started to miss
her friends and family, though, because she was
spending more time with Brian and less time with
everyone else. That seemed easier than dealing
with Brian's endless questions. He worried about
what she was doing at every moment of the day.
Sarah's friends became concerned when her behavior
started to change. She lost interest in the things
she once enjoyed, like swimming and music. She
became secretive and moody. When her friends asked
Sarah if she was having trouble with Brian, she
forcefully denied that anything was wrong. What
was going on? Read this article to find out how
to tell if you or a friend is being abused and
what you can do about it.
What Is Abuse?
Everyone has heard the songs about how much love
can hurt. But that doesn't mean physical harm:
Someone who loves you should never abuse you.
Healthy relationships involve respect, trust,
and consideration for the other person.
Abuse can sometimes be mistaken for intense feelings
of caring or concern. Sometimes abuse can even
seem flattering; think of a friend whose boyfriend
or girlfriend is insanely jealous. Maybe you've
thought your friend's partner really cares about
him or her. But actually excessive jealousy and
controlling behavior are not signs of affection
at all. Love involves respect and trust; it doesn't
mean constantly worrying about the possible end
of the relationship.
Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Slapping,
hitting, and kicking are forms of physical abuse
that can occur in both romances and friendships.
Emotional abuse, like teasing, bullying, and humiliating
others, can be difficult to recognize because
it doesn't leave any visible scars. Threats, intimidation,
put-downs, and betrayal are all harmful forms
of emotional abuse that can really hurt - not
just during the time it's happening, but long
It's never right to be forced into any type of
sexual experience that you don't want. This type
of abuse can happen to anyone, anytime.
The first step is to realize that you have the
right to be treated with respect and not be physically
or emotionally harmed by another person. But how
can you prevent becoming involved in this type
of relationship? How can you help a friend who
is in an abusive relationship?
Signs That You Are Being Abused
Any type of unwanted sexual advances that make
you uncomfortable are red flags that the relationship
needs to focus more on respect. Phrases like "If
you loved me, you would . . . " also should
warn you of possible abuse. A statement like this
is emotional blackmail from a person concerned
about getting what they want. Trust your intuition.
If it doesn't feel right, it isn't.
There are important warning signs that you may
be involved in an abusive relationship. Abusive
- harming you physically in
any way, including slapping, pushing, grabbing,
shaking, smacking, kicking, and punching
- trying to control different
aspects of your life, such as how you dress,
who you hang out with, and what you say
- frequently humiliating you
or making you feel unworthy; for example,
if a partner puts you down but tells you that
he or she loves you
- coercing or threatening to
harm you if you leave the relationship
- twisting the truth to make
you feel you are to blame for your partner's
- demanding to know where you
are at all times
- constantly becoming jealous
or angry when you want to spend time with
Signs That a Friend Is Being Abused
In addition to the signs listed above, here are
some signs of abuse to look for in a friend:
- unexplained bruises, broken
bones, sprains, or marks
- excessive guilt or shame
for no apparent reason
- secrecy or withdrawal from
friends and family
- avoidance of school or social
events with excuses that don't seem to make
If a friend is being abused, the one thing your
friend needs most is someone to hear and believe
him or her. Maybe your friend is afraid to tell
his or her parents because they'll make him or
her end the relationship. People who are abused
often feel like it's their fault - that they "asked
for it" or that they don't deserve any better.
But abuse is never deserved. Your friend needs
you to help him or her understand that it is not
his or her fault. Your friend is not a bad person.
The person who abused him or her is at fault and
needs professional help.
If you have a friend who is being abused, he or
she needs your patience, love, and understanding.
Your friend also needs you to encourage him or
her to get help immediately from an adult, such
as a parent or guidance counselor. Most of all,
your friend needs you to listen to him or her
without judging. It takes a lot of courage to
admit that you have been abused; let your friend
know that he or she has your full support.
How You Can Help Yourself
What should you do if you are suffering from any
type of abuse? If you can't love someone without
feeling afraid, it's time to get out of the relationship
fast. You're worth being treated with respect
and you can get help.
First, make sure you're safe. A trusted adult
can help you. If the person has physically attacked
you, don't wait to get medical attention or call
the police. Assault is illegal, and so is rape
- even if it's done by someone you are dating.
Avoid the tendency to isolate yourself from your
friends and family. You might feel like you have
nowhere to turn, or you might be embarrassed about
what's been going on, but this is the time when
you need support most. People like counselors,
doctors, teachers, coaches, and friends will want
to help you, so let them.
Don't rely on yourself alone to get out of the
situation; the people who love and care about
you can help you break away. It's important to
know that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness
- it actually shows that you have a lot of courage
and are willing to stand up for yourself.
Where to Get Help
There are many resources available to help you.
Your local phone book will list hundreds of crisis
centers, teen help lines, and abuse hotlines.
These organizations have professionally trained
staff to listen, understand, and help.
Ending abuse and violence in teen relationships
is a community effort with plenty of people ready
to help. Don't forget about those in your neighborhood
who will be willing and able to help: religious
leaders, school nurses, teachers, school counselors,
doctors, and other health professionals are all
sources of support and information.
to The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic