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Teen Dating Abuse

Dating Abuse is defined as a pattern of coercive behavior in which one person attempts to control another through threats or actual use of physical violence, sexual assault, and verbal or psychological abuse. These acts may include physical, sexual, verbal, mental, or emotional abuse.

These acts may include physical, sexual, verbal, mental or emotional abuse.

Dating abuse can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what your gender is, what your sexual orientation is, how old you are, how much money you have, how athletic or popular you are, or who your family is. Anyone can find themselves involved with someone who chooses to use these controlling behaviors.

Teen Power and Control Wheel

Examples of Tactics of Abuse

The Teen Power & Control Wheel is a helpful tool if you are unsure whether or not your relationship is unsafe. Check out the list below and see if your partner has ever said any of these things to you. If so, they may be signs of an abusive relationship.

“Why do you want to hang out with them? They’re losers.”
“Your parents don’t understand our relationship. I’d rather you didn’t go to their house.”
“I don’t like them. They’re not allowed here anymore.”

Peer Pressure:
“If you don’t do it, I’ll tell everyone your little secret.”
“Look around you!  Everyone is doing it!”

Anger/Emotional Abuse:
“You don’t know anything, you’re so stupid.”
“Who would want to be with you if we broke up? You’re fat.”
“You’re a bitch.”

Using Social Status:
“My boss is coming over tonight. I expect this house to be clean.”
“A woman has no business working in that position!”

“If you just would have shut your mouth I wouldn’t have hit you!”
“If you tell anyone, I’ll hurt your family.”

Minimize, Deny, and Blame:
“I didn’t mean to push you, I was drunk.”
“I’m just really stressed about school and work; what do you expect?”
“You know I can’t control my anger yet you push my buttons anyway!”
“I barely touched you!”

“If you leave me, I’ll kill myself.”
“If you take that job, I’m moving out and you’ll be on your own!”
“If you start dating someone else, you will NEVER see your kids again!”

Sexual Coercion:
“If you really loved me, you’d have sex with them”
“If you don’t want to sleep with me, I’m just going to get it somewhere else.”
“I’m not wearing a condom.”

Dating Abuse Red Flags

Along with the Power & Control Wheel it is important to recognize the red flags or warning signs of dating abuse. It is impossible to say for sure who will or won’t abuse their partner and who will or won’t be abused by their partner. Below you will find a list of behaviors that are common among someone choosing to use abusive behavior.

Does Your Partner:

  • Expect you to spend all of your time with him/her or to “check in” with and let them know where you are?
  • Act extremely jealous and/or possessive?
  • Treat you with disrespect/put you down?
  • Put down family/friends, your dreams, ideas or goals?
  • Lose his/her temper frequently over little things?
  • Make threats to hurt you/leave you/hurt your pets/destroy property/and or threaten to kill themselves if you do not do what he/she wants?
  • Play mind games or make you feel guilty?
  • Refuse to take responsibility for his/her actions. Does he/she blame it on drugs/alcohol, his/her boss, parents etc for their behavior?

Do you:

  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behavior?
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
  • Feel like no matter what you do, your partner is never happy with you?
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?

If you are worried for a friend in their relationships, you can make a difference by knowing what is helpful and what is hurtful:

  • Do not blame someone for what is happening or put them down for caring about someone who is choosing to use controlling behaviors.
  • Believe them.
  • Trust that they are the experts for themselves.
  • Offer support and resources.

If you observe someone using controlling or abusive behaviors:

  • Name the behavior and say it isn’t okay.
  • Do not threaten someone. It might make it more dangerous for their partner.


Here are some resources for teens and others interested in learning more about Dating Abuse: