abuse

Staying Safe

 
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Assessing your safety

A closer look at keeping yourself safe

 

Steps you can take to stay safe

At times we underestimate the amount of danger we could be in either because we don’t realize we’re in danger, or we don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is. Being safe is important.

Here are actions you can take to ensure your safety:

Assess the situation. Ask yourself: How likely is it that someone could hurt me? If it’s necessary, you might have to move to a location that is safer or not take risks that you could avoid, such as walking across campus or home from a bus stop alone late at night.

Find support. Making a decision to leave a situation or relationship, where you feel unsafe might be hard and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, like a friend, teacher, counselor, or other mental health professional.

Talk to the police. If you feel you are in imminent danger, call the police. They can also help if you or someone else has been hurt, or if someone has threatened your safety.

Believe in yourself. If someone is threatening to hurt you or harming you in any way, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence. Remember: It’s never O.K. for someone to hurt or threaten to hurt you. You are worth far more than that.

Know your rights. It might be a good idea to check out your legal rights if you suspect someone is breaking the law. Harassment and assault laws, as well as other laws dealing with your safety, vary from state to state.

Prevent access to your internet activity. If someone is hurting you and you are searching for help on the internet, you may not want that person to have access to this information. Remember to turn your browsing history off or to delete it after the fact, if you feel you have to.

Generally, it’s good to be cautious about your safety when using the internet. With so many forms of personal information on the internet, you have to be careful. The Nemours Foundation and WebMD offer several suggestions for internet safety.

Stop and think about the consequences of taking unnecessary risks

Some things that jeopardize your safety are things you can control, which is great! That means you can be proactive at ensuring you’re safe. Some of those things might be:

  • Making good decisions about drinking and not driving

  • Knowing your limits when drinking alcohol

  • Not going home with someone you don’t really know

  • Not having unprotected sex

  • Watching your drink at a party (See Date Rape Drugs for more information)

  • Driving yourself to a party, so you can leave if things feel unsafe

  • Being aware of your surroundings

  • Not picking up hitchhikers

  • Listening to your gut or intuition

It’s particularly tempting when you first get out on your own and are not under your family’s eye to experiment and try things that you might not have tried before. That’s natural, but you can still be independent without making unsafe choices. Our Risk-Taking article offers more on this topic.

Consider a safety plan

It might be necessary to have a safety plan in place before you leave the situation where you feel unsafe. Consider these points before making your safety plan:

Have somewhere safe to go. If you can’t think of anywhere to stay, you might want to contact a shelter.

Tell someone. If possible, tell your friends and family members to see if they can help protect and support you. You might also want to talk to someone who’s removed from the situation, like a counselor, social worker, or one of the trained volunteers at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, or RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network at 1-800-656-4673 or Lines for Life’s Suicide LifeLine at 1-800-273-8255. Even if you’re not suicidal, they’ll still talk to you and give you support regardless of what you’re going through. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.

Have cash on hand. If you can, save some money so you can leave a situation you don’t feel safe in. In these situations, you might need to pay for transportation or temporary housing, so having cash on hand can make this easier.

Minimize your time alone. Remember: There’s safety in numbers. Try and be around other people whenever possible.

After you feel safe

Once the crisis has passed, it’s usually easier to work out what to do in the future should you find yourself in the situation again. If someone close to you is putting you in danger, it might be necessary to end your relationship with the person, which could include moving. This will probably be a hard step to take, so have as much support as possible.

If you’re concerned for your safety in the future it might be necessary to talk to the police, change your phone number or screen your calls through an answering machine. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides important advice about protecting your identity after moving to a new location. You might want to check out the website even if you are not worried about a specific person, as it contains useful tips for anyone to protect themselves.

Remember: There are many people and services that can help. Just talking to someone you trust about your concerns can help you see your options more clearly.

 

Additional resources, and information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Intimate Partner Violence

 
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Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence

A closer look at how to recognize intimate partner violence and what to do if you’re in an abusive relationship

 

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse that takes place between two people who have a romantic relationship—spouses, partners, boyfriends and girlfriends. Many people also use the word “domestic violence.” IPV can occur in many forms and can affect people of any age. If someone is hurting you, it can be frightening, and you might not know how to make the abuse stop—especially if you live with the person who is abusing you. It’s important to remember that no one has the right to be violent toward you and there are people who can help you.

IPV can take on many forms, including:

Physical/Sexual. Forms of physical violence include pushing, shaking, punching, slapping, forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, throwing things at you, using weapons, damaging your property, or hurting or killing your pets. If someone is being physically violent to you, seek safety as soon as possible. Leave the situation as quickly and safely as possible, and call 911 or your local police.

Emotional/Verbal. This form of violence is often unrecognized as IPV, but it can be just as hurtful and damaging as physical violence. If someone is making threats, texting or speaking to you in a way that is frightening, putting you down, or using blackmail against you, he or she is being emotionally violent. Emotional violence also includes insulting you or teasing you in front of other people, keeping you isolated from family and friends, preventing you from having your own opinions and controlling what you do and where you go.

Economic. Having money—and making decisions about how to use it—is one form of independence. If someone is controlling your money, keeping you financially dependent, or forcing you to ask for money unreasonably, this is another form of IPV.

According to the CDC, 26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18.”

You might assume that IPV only happens between adults or in relationships where two people are living together. But this isn’t the case. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely to report violence in their romantic relationships than any other age group. According to a recent national survey, 8% of high school students reported physical violence and 7% reported that they had experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner within the last year.

How can I keep myself safe?

At times you might underestimate the amount of danger you’re in, either because you might not realize it or don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is because you think that your partner really loves and cares for you. Your partner might promise to “never do it again”, you might feel like you are to blame for their behavior, or perhaps you think you can change your partner. But you are not responsible for your partner’s action—ever—and there are actions you can take to ensure that he or she does not hurt you anymore.

Steps to ensuring your safety:

  • Call the police. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police.

  • Leave. It can be incredibly hard to end a relationship, especially if you’re sharing a home with the person who’s hurting you. Because the person who is abusing you might be manipulating you or isolating you from your friends and family, you might feel like you can’t leave, or that you have nowhere to go. But there is support for you when you feel like you should leave a place where you feel threatened or unsafe. If you need to leave, make sure to take important items, like your IDs, credit cards, cash and cell phone.

  • Get support. Making a decision to leave an unsafe relationship can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, counselor or social worker. You might also want to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453. Hotline volunteers can direct you to local resources and shelters in your area where you can find additional help and support. Our crisis helpline directory also offer links to other services and resources in your country in Oregon, as well as national helplines.

IPV is just one form of violence. Abuse can come from adults, strangers, or your peers at school. You have the right to feel and be safe. For more information on steps you can take to ensure your safety, check out the following articles:

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Helping a Friend in a Sexually Abusive Relationship

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Is your friend in an abusive relationship?

A closer look at how you can support them

It is usually difficult to know if a friend is in a sexually abusive relationship. That being said, there are some warning signs that you might notice, especially in their behavior. These can also be true if your friend is in an emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive relationship.

What to look for:

  • Your friend is losing interest in activities he or she used to enjoy

  • Your friend is overly worried about what his or her boyfriend or girlfriend thinks

  • They’re acting overly happy or seem to be worried and anxious when with their partner

  • If someone calls your friend’s partner out on something negative, your friend makes excuses for their partner all the time

  • They avoid friends and social activities that do not include their partner

  • Your friend jokes about their partner’s violent outbursts

  • Your friend has unexplained injuries and the explanations seem odd or unlikely

  • Your friend’s behavior has changed dramatically since they started dating this current partner

How you can help

If you do suspect that your friend is being abused by their partner, there are some ways you can help, but it is always important to remember that if you believe that you or your friend are in some immediate danger, you need to go to the police.

Encourage your friend to talk. Try to get your friend to do most of the talking. Here are some open-ended questions you can ask your friend:

  • How are you feeling about your relationship?

  • What do your friends and family think about your relationship?

  • Do you have plans for the future of your relationship?

Try to talk when you’re alone with your friend, not in front of other friends or family members, especially their partner. Sometimes it can be easier to talk if you’re also focused on another activity like going for a drive, making a meal or doing the dishes. You should talk to your friend or seek help from an outside source, but do not confront your friend’s partner. This could make the situation worse and you could even be putting yourself in an unsafe position. You will also want to suggest that your friend not talk to their partner about your conversation.

Listen to your friend. Don’t be judgmental. If your friend is in an abusive relationship, they probably already feel down. Don’t make your friend feel worse.

Don’t blame your friend for what’s happening. Don’t tell your friend what they should have done differently. Concentrate on what makes them happy and how your friend can take action to change things now.

Don’t tell your friend what to do. Instead, encourage your friend to think about options. You might ask your friend if he or she has already tried getting help, or you might suggest places to seek help.

Be specific about why you’re concerned. For example, say things like, “I feel bad when he says you’re stupid” or “We hate to see you nervous and unhappy.”

Make sure your friend knows they have your support. Your friend might be feeling very isolated and alone. Let your friend know that you are there for them, and that they have already begun seeking help by talking to you. Make sure your friend knows you are willing to support them in any way that will help.

Help your friend work out some realistic strategies. What works in this situation will depend on how willing your friend is to see that there is a problem.

Your friend has to find their own way through the situation, but talking to you or a trusted person can help. If your friend does not want to talk to you about it, you might just suggest that your friend call a helpline (like one of the ones listed below), where they can get help without bringing anyone personal into the situation. Encouraging your friend to realize their strengths as an individual can be the best protection you can give, and the best way to ensure that your friend does not become a victim of abuse again.

Where to get help

Finding the courage and the appropriate way to talk about these issues with your friend is important. If you need advice or information for how to do this, there are lots of services and support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you or someone you know is in a violent relationship or has been sexually assaulted. Though you should not feel personally responsible for a friend’s situation, you can always choose to help.

You can call:

For more information, you can check out our articles on Abusive Relationships and Sexual Violence. Kids Health may also have useful information on sexual abuse.


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Sexual Violence

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Sexual Violence

A closer look at what sexual violence is, how it can affect someone, and important laws you should know

Sexual violence is a crime and can refer to any type of sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. The person responsible for the violence is often someone known to the victim, and can be, but is not limited to, a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor. Sexual violence is never the fault of the victim.

Different types of sexual violence

There are a lot of different ways that people can become victims to sexual violence, and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. These acts might include those that:

Do not include physical contact:

  • Sexual harassment

  • Threats

  • Intimidation

  • Peeping

  • Taking nude photos or videos

Do include touching:

  • Unwanted touching

  • Sexual assault

  • Rape

”Sexual assault” in everyday language is a general term that includes rape and other offenses like assault/battery and sexual groping. The definitions and labels for sexual offenses can differ slightly from state to state. In some states, sex without consent is called “rape,” while in others, it is called ”sexual assault,” ”sexual intercourse without consent,” or “sexual penetration without consent.”

Though the term “assault” may bring physical attack to mind, it isn’t just about hitting. Sexual violence can also include using force or fear to make you do things that you don’t want to do.

Why are people sexually violent toward others?

Sexual violence is not about offenders getting pleasure from sex or any other form of harassment, but rather about them asserting power and control over someone else. Some offenders have been abused themselves, but this is not always the case, and there’s no evidence that a victim or survivor of sexual assault will become a perpetrator. To learn more about the theories behind sexual aggression, check out the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

How experiencing sexual violence might affect you

Everyone reacts to the types of sexual violence differently. Individuals can experience a variety of immediate, short-term and long-term effects on their physical and emotional well being. These can include:

Shock and denial. Someone who has been a victim of sexual violence might not accept that it has really occurred. “Has this really happened to me?” and “Why me?” might be common questions that someone asks themselves.

Fear. After any form of sexual violence occurs, a person might be afraid of the offender, other people, or of being alone. A person might also be afraid to deal with the medical, legal or social consequences of the crime, and of being rejected by loved ones because of the sexual violence.

Silence. A sexual violence survivor might be unable to talk about the experience or describe what it means and feels like. There are also social pressures that might keep you from speaking, too.

Anxiety. A survivor might always be on edge. He or she might be unable to relax or feel safe.

Depression. Survivors might be at a greater risk of depression after the incident.

Guilt and blame. A survivor might continually question the events leading up to the violent event, and find fault with themselves or others for the assault. Questions they might ask themselves include, “Why did I go there?”, “Why did I let it happen?” and “Why did I not fight back?”

Low self-esteem. A survivor might feel ashamed or dirty after the assault.

Isolation. A survivor might want to be alone, and have a tendency to close him or herself off from friends and family members. A survivor might also have a hard time getting emotionally close to others after experiencing sexual violence.

Nightmares and flashbacks. Images and memories of the violence might continue in a survivor’s daily life and sleep.

Mood swings. Survivors might quickly change moods from anger and rage to tears and despair.

Loss of confidence. Survivors might become apathetic or self-conscious when working, studying or socializing with friends.

Loss of trust. After an assault, a victim might have a hard time trusting people who weren’t even connected with the incident, including friends and family members.

Lack of intimacy. Survivors might be afraid of, or uncomfortable in, sexual relationships after an assault.

To stay safe, play it safe

Most sexual violence occurs within a relationship (intimate partners, family members, or acquaintances). On average, 74% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger, and 30% are by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual violence can also happen outside of relationships. Check out the CDC’s fact sheet on sexual violence or the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website for statistical or crisis helpline information.

Here are some tips or things you can do to keep safe:

  • Plan to go out and hang out in a group

  • Go out with people you feel safe with and who you know have your best interests at heart. Good friends make sure that their friends are safe and make safe choices.

  • Have transportation plans to make sure you can get to where you’re going and back safely. Carry money for a taxi-cab just in case.

  • Let someone—like your parents, siblings or roommates—know where you’re going and when you’ll be home. If your plans change, let these people know.

  • Alcohol and sex can be a dangerous mix. Remember: if you aren’t in control of yourself, you won’t be able to control your situation.

  • Avoid being alone and isolated with someone you don’t know well. If you start to feel uncomfortable, go with your feelings, and get to a safe place as fast as you can.

  • Take a self-defense class at your local high school, college or recreation center. It might also be a good idea to have pepper spray, wasp spray, a whistle, or a self-defense keychain handy.

Agreeing to one type of activity such as kissing doesn’t mean that it’s a ”green light” for other sexual contact. Remember: it’s OK to change your mind and say no at any stage. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t stop being careful just because you know the person you’re with. You might not know the person as well as you think.

Sexual violence and the law

In the United States, laws relating to sex and sexual violence can differ between states. Crimes such as statutory rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse can just mean people having sex under a certain age (the age of consent), and do not necessarily include force. The age of consent varies between the states, ranging from 14 to 18, with most states setting it at 16. This means that having sex with someone under that age, even if it is consensual, is a crime. Some states base the penalty for these violations on the age of the offender, with older offenders receiving harsher punishments. For example, in certain states, a minor might receive as little as six months or one year in prison, and an older offender might receive life imprisonment. Most penalties range from 10 to 30 years, depending on age and state, according to the Connecticut General Assembly Report.

The federal government has certain laws to ensure that all victims of violence have their rights. Since 2003, every state has some sort of crime compensation program and victims’ rights legislation. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act, a component of the Justice for All Act of 2004, specifies the roles of various criminal justice officials in supplying the information the victim is to receive, as well as in implementing victims’ rights. A second act, the Violence Against Women Act of 1998, enhances the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and increases the jail time of the accused perpetrator before the trial. These laws, along with other state and federal laws are continuously updated and reauthorized.

Sexual violence is a crime. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or was a victim of another type of sexual violence —either recently or in the distant past—you have the right to report it to the police. If you decide to report an assault, an officer will take your statement. If the assault was recent, he or she might also ask you to have a medical examination, during which a health care professional will make sure you’re physically OK and possibly take evidence. Check out the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network for more about what happens during an examination and who might conduct it.

Where to get help

Finding the courage to talk about sexual violence is important.

If you need help, you can call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673 or the National Center for Victims of Crime hotline at 1-800-FYI-CALL. You can also call The Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 to find help in your area. You could also check out our Crisis Helplines directory to find additional resource.. Remember: do not hesitate to call your doctor, nurse, or local health professional if you feel comfortable doing so.

Each state has a sexual assault coalition that can provide with state-specific information and resources.  You can access each state’s coalition through the Office of Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice.

For emergency situations that require immediate and urgent assistance, call 911.

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Child Abuse

Child Abuse

A closer look at what child abuse is, why it happens, and what you can do if you’re being abused

What is child abuse?

Child abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver acts in a way that causes a child to be hurt physically or harmed emotionally, or fails to act to prevent such harm. When a person is abused as a child, the harm inflicted can last a lifetime. Research from the Child Welfare Gateway in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that children who are abused can have trouble developing mentally and emotionally, and be at higher risk to abuse drugs and alcohol as adults.

How does abuse happen?

Child abuse can take many different forms. Here are a few examples:

Physical abuse. According to Child Welfare Gateway, physical abuse is any physical injury to a child or young person under 18 that does not occur by accident. Physical abuse can include hitting, beating, shaking, punching, biting, burning or strangling. Under many state laws, physical abuse also includes making threats to harm a child or young person, or putting that young person in a situation that could cause serious harm.

Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse occurs when an adult forces a child or young person to engage in sexual acts, including sexual intercourse, penetration, masturbation, voyeurism (like taking sexual photographs or videos), or incest. Sexual abuse can also include forcing a young person to enter into prostitution.

Emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is a form of abuse that causes a child or young person to feel like they are worthless, flawed, and unloved. Someone can emotionally abuse another by belittling, threatening, bullying, ignoring, or isolating that person from others.

Neglect. Neglect is the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education or supervision.

Why does abuse happen?

There’s no easy answer to this question. Several factors can contribute to a greater chance for child abuse within a family. For example, parents or caregivers who were abused as children, abuse alcohol or drugs, or have mental disorders like depression and anxiety might be more likely to abuse their children. Child abuse happens in every state, and among families of all religions and backgrounds, but in every situation, it is never O.K. to harm someone else.

The effects of abuse

Abuse is often confusing. It’s hard to understand that the same person that you rely on for survival and who is supposed to look after you can also harm you. Even if the abuse happened a long time ago, it can cause you to feel emotions that might stay with you for years. There’s often a spectrum of feelings that you may have to work through in order to begin healing.

Here are a few things you might experienced:

Fear. For obvious reasons, many survivors of abuse are afraid of the people who abused them. They might also be scared of what will happen if they tell someone else that they’ve been abused. Fear can prevent victims of abuse from getting the help they need to stay safe or to deal with the abuse. Sometimes abuse can make survivors more fearful of people or situations in general and keep survivors from having meaningful relationships with others.

Nightmares and flashbacks. Some events that happen in your life can trigger memories of past abuse. For example, going back to the house you lived in when you were young, or a certain smell or food, might cause you to remember times when you were abused. You might also experience nightmares or flashbacks, which can almost be like reliving the abuse.

Anger. You might feel angry at the person who abused you, the other people in your life who might not have kept you safe, and even yourself. It’s normal to feel angry.

Guilt. You might feel as though you’re to blame for the abuse. For example, you might think that if you had done something differently-like had you gotten better grades or behaved better-the abuse wouldn’t have happened. But this is not the case. You are never to blame for abuse.

Low self-esteem. Abuse might cause you to doubt yourself or feel like you’re undeserving or unworthy. However, no matter what your abuser says, you are or were not worthless or a bad person. For tips on how to build and maintain self-esteem, check out the Self-Esteem article.

Denial. You might try to convince yourself that the abuse didn’t happen in order to bury your feelings. However, acknowledging the fact that you’ve been abused is the first step toward repairing the emotional damage it has done.

Taking the next step

Recovering from abuse can be a long process. It’s important that you have support from people who love you, as well as trained professionals, to work through your feelings.

Here are a few suggestions of where you can go to get help:

Call the police. If at any time you’re in an unsafe or potentially abusive situation, call 911 or your local police immediately.

Talk to someone. Although it might be difficult at first, it’s important to tell someone you trust if you are being abused or have been abused. People close to you, like trusted friends, family members, and teachers can support you and help you find professionals to talk to, like a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone in person, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. This hotline is free, anonymous, and available 365 days a year. Trained volunteers can connect you to people in your area who can help.

Join a support group. This can be really helpful, as it gives you a place to share your experiences and feelings with people who understand and have been through similar experiences. A counselor or medical doctor can help you find a support group in your area.

The law

The definitions of child abuse vary from state to state, but at a minimum, state laws must protect young people under 18 from physical, emotional and sexual harm and neglect. People who abuse children (and people who fail to report child abuse if they know it is happening) can face jail time and penalties. Parents and caregivers who abuse children can also lose custody and parental rights to their children.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Abusive Relationships

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Abusive Relationships

A closer look at abusive relationships, how to identify if you or someone you love is in one, and where to get help

When you’re in a healthy relationship, both individuals support each other by sharing the good times and helping each other through the tough ones. When someone matters deeply to you, and those feelings of trust and respect are returned, it enables you to face the world with confidence.

Building and maintaining a healthy relationship takes a commitment from both sides. But it’s worth it, because in a good relationship, you feel good about your boyfriend or girlfriend and good about yourself.

Not all relationships work out, no matter how much we might want them to. When a relationship becomes violent or destructive, it can be both physically and emotionally dangerous for the people involved.

Key signs of an abusive relationship

While everyone’s experience of an unhealthy or abusive relationship will be different, there are some common patterns of controlling behavior and abuse that can surface before the relationship becomes physically violent. These include:

Possessiveness. This could mean that your partner is checking on you all the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with; or trying to control where you can go and who you can see.

Jealousy. This includes accusing you—without good reason—of being unfaithful or flirting, or isolating you from your family and friends, often by exhibiting rude behavior.

Put-downs. These can happen either privately or publicly by attacking how smart you are, your looks or capabilities. In an abusive situation, your boyfriend or girlfriend might also constantly compare you unfavorably to other people, or blame you for all the problems in the relationship.

Gaslighting. This is a common tactic used by abusers to manipulate you and to make you question your reality. They are confident liars and slowly start showing this side of themselves to you, isolating you from loved ones and tearing into your sense of identity and all you care about. If you’ve ever been made to feel like you were losing your mind, it’s likely you were with a gaslighter.

Threats. An abuser might use threats against you, for example, that he or she will use violence against you, your family or friends, or even a pet. He or she might tell you that no one else will ever want to date you. Yelling, sulking, and breaking things are also signs of abuse.

What to do if you are being abused

It’s not OK to be physically threatened or scared into things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy just because you are in a relationship.

It’s not OK to be put down and pushed around—shoved, hit, slapped, kicked or punched. No one deserves to be treated this way. No one should use violence—or the threat of violence—to make you do what you don’t want to do.

It’s not OK for someone to use the excuse that they are tired, stressed, overworked or under financial pressure as a reason for their violent behavior.

If you’re living with your boyfriend or girlfriend and are feeling unsafe, find other accommodations with friends or family, or if that’s not possible, an emergency shelter.

Breaking the cycle of violence

A violent relationship may not be violent all the time. Sometimes, violent people treat their boyfriends or girlfriends very well. They can be loving and sorry for their violent behavior. This can make it hard to see what’s really happening. There is a strong chance that the violence will get worse, and the relationship more abusive over time.

After a violent event, it’s common for both of you to try and make things better by making excuses, apologizing, or promising to change. But there is no excuse for this behavior, and just saying sorry is not good enough. Sometimes the violent person will blame the victim by saying things like “it wouldn’t happen if you did what I said.” Things might settle down for a while, but usually it’s only a matter of time before the build-up to violence starts again.

If you’re experiencing violence in a relationship, things can feel very confusing, especially if it’s your first relationship. You might try to make excuses, think of the violence as a one-time incident, or blame the abuse on the fact that the abuser was drunk or stressed. You might not be sure what behavior to expect from him or her. It’s possible to begin thinking that the violence is your fault, or perhaps you start to try to fit in with whatever the abuser wants, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You could also be feeling scared that he or she will hurt you if you try to leave.

Ending any kind of relationship is hard to do, but it can be particularly difficult to leave a violent relationship. When you’re frightened and your self-esteem is low, it can be hard to find the strength to leave or break-up. Sometimes it’s easier to hope that things will change for the better, but too often they don’t.

The first step in changing things is to understand that what’s been happening to you is wrong. Even if your boyfriend or girlfriend says they care about you, it’s not OK to be treated like this and you deserve better.

Where to get help

Listen to your feelings and trust them. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Talk to someone who cares about you. Talk to your mom or dad, a family member, a friend or someone in your community like your doctor, your teacher or your local religious leader. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. You are not responsible for somebody else’s violent behavior. Your first responsibility is to yourself. To develop a safe plan to leave, check out loveisrespect.org’s comprehensive safety planning guide. The sources listed below can also help you get safe.

Helplines

Many free helplines are available if you think you’re being abused, or are worried for a friend you suspect could be being abused. Check out our Crisis Helpline article to find crisis helplines and services offered both nationally and within the state of Oregon.

Some national helplines you can reach out to:

Both hotlines are confidential and staffed 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who are ready to talk to you about whatever you’re feeling.

 

State resources

You can also reach out to an abuse coalition in your state, which can help connect you to more local resources. Check out the Domestic Violence Coalitions website for more information on state coalitions.

Womenslaw.org has information regarding legal matters and abuse per state that might be helpful looking at before leaving the abusive relationship.

 

Information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com