Is Your Friend in an Abusive Relationship?

Dating abuse is when one person in the relationship intentionally uses abusive tactics to gain power and maintain control over their partner over a period of time. Abusive behavior can be verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, digital, and/or physical.  Dating abuse can happen to anyone.

A person who is in an abusive relationship might not realize that they are being abused. It is important not to blame your friend.  Instead have empathy for them and try to understand why they might stay. For starters, someone in an abusive relationship probably does not want the relationship to end – they want the abuse to stop. The abuse might not happen all the time – sometimes the person may be charming, romantic, and funny. Abuse develops over a period of time. The person being abused might have a lot invested in the relationship and not realize how bad the abuse has gotten.

What About if Your Friend is in an Abusive LGBTQ Relationship?

Be careful not to minimize your friend’s experience or think that the abuse is mutual because it involves two women or two men. People may incorrectly believe that it is not possible for a woman to abuse another woman or they consider it “just a cat fight.” When the abuse is between two men, it is wrongly assumed that this is normal male behavior for “working things out.” For either gender, people may not believe that the smaller person is capable of being the aggressor.

Dating abuse is never mutual because, by definition, one person is being controlled by the other through abusive tactics.  The following information is for all people no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Changes You May See in a Friend Experiencing Abuse:

  • New eating or sleeping habits

  • Constantly canceling plans

  • Isolating themselves from friends or family

  • Taking lots of risks to be with their partner

  • Doing poorly in school

  • Depression, pervasive sadness, mood swings

  • Giving up interests that are important like sports or hobbies

  • Having physical complaints like headaches or stomach aches

  • Trying to lose or gain weight

  • Nervousness

  • Worries about making their partner angry

  • Using drugs or alcohol

  • Showing signs of physical abuse, like bruises or cuts

How do I Help a Friend Who is in an Abusive Relationship?

  • Start a conversation. Find a safe, private place, and explain what you see or suspect

  • Listen to and believe your friend when they are ready to talk about it.

  • Do not judge or blame your friend

  • Support your friend by saying things like:

I know you really care about this person but, you don’t deserve this.

It’s not your fault.

What’s happening to you isn’t right.

  • Offer options and resources to your friend

Guidance office

Teen dating abuse hotline



Trusted teachers

  • Respect your friend’s choices.  You may be tempted to take action and come to the rescue, but because dating abuse is such a complex issue rescue attempts often backfire and can leave them even more vulnerable to danger. Don’t make assumptions about what she’s tried or about what she’s got to lose.

  • Do not assume that separation will end the abuse. Only the abuser controls the abuse.

  • Don’t accept excuses for abuse. It’s not kind or helpful to anyone.

  • Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own safety, too. Be a bridge, not a destination.

  • Keep everything you hear confidential for your friend’s safety.

Is Your Friend Abusing their Partner?

The following are some  behaviors you might witness in a friend who is abusive.

  • Excessively jealous and possessive

  • Isolating their partner from family and friends

  • Insulting and putting down their partner

  • Trying to control what their partner wears

  • Constantly calling and texting, checking calls and texts

  • Checking their partner’s social networking site several times a day

  • Speaking about their partner in an angry way

  • Damaging his or her property such as cell phone, car, or locker

It is difficult to know how to respond when you see a friend or family member abusing their partner. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tell your friend that what he or she is doing is abuse and to stop it.

  • Do not allow your friend to make excuse or blame their partner.

  • Let your friend know you are worried about the abusive behavior.

  • Suggest  he or she get help to deal with relationship issues.

  • Be there for your friend over the long term and continue to hold them accountable for their abusive behaviors.

Call our Confidential Hotline: 1.866.834.4357    24/365

It is for friends too! We will…

  • Listen to you and not judge.
  • Offer support for your feelings and information about teen dating abuse
  • Explore the situation and answer any questions you may have.
  • Help you know what to say to the friend you are concerned about
  • Talk with you about how to be helpful to someone you care about.
  • Keep your information confidential.