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October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – read more below about how you can identify the signs of an unhealthy relationship and/or abuse, and how you can be an advocate to make sure your friends, family members, and community are safer and happier.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence can look like a lot of different things and goes by many names: dating violence, dating abuse, and domestic abuse. You may have heard the term Teen Dating Violence, or TDV, to refer to abuse that happens between teens.

Though there are many names, they all refer to the same thing:  a pattern of behaviors used to control a dating partner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines domestic abuse/violence as physical, sexual, emotional or psychological harm by a current partner, former partner, or spouse. It is normal to argue with your partner sometimes but relationships should NEVER be abusive, scary, or harmful. 

Who is Affected?

The sad fact is that domestic violence is more common than you might think, even among teens. Did you know that nearly 1.5 million high school students across the country experience teen dating violence every year? 

It’s important to know that domestic violence does not discriminate! Domestic violence is not gender specific (meaning that anyone of any gender can be abused, and anyone of any gender can be an abuser) and abuse can take many forms. All types of people can experience domestic violence no matter of their age, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status. One in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in 2018.

What are some of the red flags that signal you or someone might need help?

Domestic violence can enter a relationship in different ways, and it may not always feel obvious. You may find yourself questioning whether or not a relationship is actually “abusive” if it is not physical. You or someone you know could be experiencing emotional, physical, sexual, or digital abuse.

Emotional/Verbal Abuse

  • Making you feel bad about the way you look or feel
  • Verbally threatening you
  • Calling you insulting or derogatory names
  • Threatening to harm themselves when upset

Physical Abuse

  • Hitting, pushing, slapping
  • Bruising
  • Restraining or gripping you

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing you to engage in any type of sexual activity
  • Using their weight to hold you down
  • Pressuring you to do things you don’t want to -- for example, saying things like “If you love, you’ll have sex with me”

Digital Abuse

  • Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Snapchat
  • Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, tweets, DMs or other messages online.
  • Uses social media to keep constant tabs on you.
  • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and/or demands you send some in return.
  • Pressures you to send explicit video or sexts.
  • Steals or insists on being given your passwords.
  • Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
  • Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.
  • Tags you unkindly in pictures on social media.

You can find more warning signs of abuse here.

Where to Find Help

If any of these warning signs feel similar to your relationship or you have a friend who you suspect might be in an unhealthy relationship, check out and share these resources below.

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

They are available to chat or take your calls at 1-800-799-7233 24/7/365

Love is Respect Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

Online chat is available 24/7/365 or you can call at 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522

RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline

Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

How to be a Healthy Relationship Advocate for Yourself and Others

  • Learn more about healthy relationships on TeenSource.
  • Educate yourself on how to support a friend or family member experiencing domestic violence
  • Speak up! Share important resources -- you never know who might need to be reminded that they can access a hotline. Start by sharing TeenSource’s graphic on Instagram (and remember to tag us!)
  • Host a fundraiser or an event to raise money and start difficult conversations about domestic violence
    • Check out this toolkit from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. It includes resources to get involved in your community, host movie nights, write letters to newspapers, start conversations with loved ones, take action on domestic violence policy, and more!
  • Join the Let’s Be Real movement started by Break The Cycle
    • Let’s Be Real provides teens with online and in-person opportunities to have real conversations about your experiences, tap into your creativity, and apply your individual gifts and talents towards building a culture without abuse. 

Bottom Line

If you feel you or someone close to you is in an abusive relationship, help is availableEverybody deserves a healthy relationship and to live a life free from violence, assualt and intimidation.