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Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

What teen guys must know about abusive dating relationships.
By Eric Metcalf, MPH
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jennifer Gómez never forgot about her high school boyfriend after graduation. He haunted her in nightmares even after she moved away and changed her name. She says she would wake up with the memory of the abuse he inflicted on her fresh on her mind.

A few years later, he tracked her down online. “We had a phone conversation," Gomez says. "He hadn’t realized, for all these years, everything he’d done to me. He was living with the memory of the ideal us, how much he loved me. He didn’t have the realization of him being this monster to me. He has to live with the fact that he’s a monster in my eyes. I think that’s probably very difficult.”

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Jennifer is now studying to become a psychologist, and she’s worked with teenaged girls to help them learn how to avoid abusive relationships.

Abusive behavior between teenaged guys and girls is common these days, as Jennifer and several experts told WebMD.

Some guys may have wrong ideas about abuse in relationships. For starters, abuse doesn’t just mean hitting or shoving. Many other behaviors actually count as abuse, some of which may surprise you.

Also, both guys and girls can be abusive. And behaviors that many teens think are normal actually aren’t cool at all.

But it’s not hard to avoid bad behavior, whether you’re dating, hooking up, or hanging out (and whether you consider yourself straight, gay, or any other category).

By recognizing abusive behavior, you can stay out of trouble, protect the people around you, and set yourself up to do well in the dating world later in life.

What’s Dating Abuse, and Who’s Doing It?

About 9% of teens are the victim of physical violence from a dating partner each year, according to the CDC. But much of the abuse that goes on between teens may not be physical, says Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, a doctor at the University of Pittsburgh who focuses on teen dating violence.

Very common problems in teens include:

  • Emotional abuse. This includes hurting someone’s feelings on purpose.
  • Verbal abuse. Yelling, making threats, or mocking the person you’re with counts as verbal abuse.
  • Controlling behavior. Calling a girlfriend repeatedly to ask where she is, telling her who she can hang out with, or reading her texts or checking her cell phone without her permission isn’t cool.

Also, pressuring or forcing someone into a sexual situation against her or his will is a serious form of abuse.

These days, some teens may see abusive behaviors as normal. Recent research shows that young male athletes may notice abusive behaviors less over the course of a sports season, and feel less inclined to speak up when they see abusive behaviors, Miller says. Jennifer Gómez says she was surprised how many teens -- of both genders - thought it was OK for girls to hit guys.

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