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Teen Health

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Am I in an Unhealthy or Abusive Relationship?

Sometimes, an unhealthy or abusive relationship is pretty easy to spot. Consider this example:

Tina's parents were watching television as Tina (not her real name) burst through the front door without closing it, and ran into her bedroom. Her parents went to Tina's room to investigate. As they approached their daughter's bedroom, they could hear her crying hysterically. They asked if they could come in. Tina said yes.

Once they were in the bedroom, Tina turned to look at them, and they saw a bright red mark on the side of her face.

"He slapped me ... Brad hit me," Tina screamed. "We were sitting in his car outside of our house talking, and we got into an argument about his friends. I just don't like hanging around some of them. Well, Brad got so mad that he slapped me in the face. I've seen him lose his temper before, but I never thought it would be like this."

Tina's parents were frightened for their daughter and knew they had an extremely serious situation on their hands.

Warning Signs of an Unhealthy or Abusive Relationship

Tina's situation is far more common than you might imagine. A United States Department of Justice survey showed the following eye-opening facts:

  • 1 out of 3 teenagers has experienced violence in a dating relationship.
  • 50% to 80% of teens have reported knowing others who were involved in violent relationships
  • 15% of teen girls and boys have reported being victims of severe dating violence (defined as being hit, thrown down, or attacked with a weapon).
  • 8% of eighth- and ninth-grade teens have reported being victims of sexual dating violence.
  • Young women, aged 16 to 24 years, experience the highest rates of relationship violence.

While all of these situations are serious and require drastic action, a relationship does not have to involve physical violence to be unhealthy. Here are some additional warning signs your relationship is in trouble:

  • Controlling behaviors, such as not letting you hang out with your friends, telling you what to wear, having to be with you all the time, or calling or texting you frequently to "check up" on you.
  • Verbal and emotional abuse that involves calling you names, jealousy, cutting you down, and threatening to hurt you or a family member if you don't do what they want.
  • Sexual abuse that includes unwanted touching and kissing, forcing you to have sex, or forcing you to do other sexual things.


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