5 Myths About Teenage Domestic Abuse – Debunked
In a relationship, abuse is defined by a pattern of controlling and abusive behaviours, to gain power over the other person. These behaviours can threaten and intimidate a person and may cause them to become isolated from their loved ones. Domestic abuse can be emotional, mental/psychological, verbal, cyber, physical, sexual, or financial.
According to Avon and Refuge’s ‘Define the Line’ study in 2017, 56% of young people experience controlling behaviour in relationships. Despite a rising awareness of domestic abuse in teenagers, there are still a lot of myths around it. Today, we’re looking at some of the most common misconceptions.
Myth #1 – Domestic Abuse Can’t Happen to Teenagers
As we explored above, this is not the case. Relationships can develop very quickly; it can be difficult for young people to spot the signs, especially if they aren’t looking out for them. Older people can make the mistake of not taking young people’s relationships seriously – this can be a problem, because it means abusive relationships can slip under their radar. It is so important to know the signs of an abusive relationship – no matter how young (or old!) you are – not just for yourself, but for your friends, too.
Myth #2 – It’s Not Abuse If It’s Not Physical
This is another huge misconception. Different types of abuse fall under the umbrella of ‘domestic’ abuse – although your mind may jump to physical right away, the impacts of emotional abuse are huge, too. Abusive behaviours can be controlling – such as a partner demanding to check your phone to see who you’ve been talking to, or not allowing you to make your own decisions about where you go or who you spend time with. They can also be manipulative – like if your partner tries to turn you against your loved ones, or if they make you feel guilty if you don’t spend time with them. Of course, different types of abusive – physical, verbal, cyber, sexual, mental, financial, emotional – can overlap. Sometimes, these other types of abuse can lead to physical abuse, but all types of abuse can cause a great deal of damage.
Myth #3 – Jealousy Just Shows That They’re into You
Of course, it’s normal to feel protective of your partner, or even to feel a little bit jealous from time to time if they spend time with other people. However, extreme jealousy that causes abusive, controlling behaviour (like the phone-checking we spoke of earlier, or if your partner gets angry with you for spending time with other people) is NOT normal in a relationship. Jealousy is not an excuse to abuse.
Myth #4- Boys Can’t Be Victims
This is a classic, and damaging myth, that needs to be debunked. Although statistics seem to suggest that males are more likely to abuse than be victims, this definitely doesn’t mean that’s always the case. Boys may find it hard to seek help if they are in an abusive relationship, and they may not feel that they are able to tell their friends or loved ones. Girls (and women) can manipulate, threaten, or even physically hurt their partners – it’s so important to bear this in mind, especially if you’re worrying about a friend or family member in this situation.
Myth #5 – If It Was That Bad, Victims Would Just Leave
It is difficult to understand what it’s like being in a controlling relationship if you’ve never been in one. Exiting an abusive relationship is never as simple as ‘just’ leaving. Being controlled, manipulated, threatened or insulted by your partner again and again can lower your self-esteem to such a point that you end up fearful of your life without them. If a partner is being physically abusive, then you may be too scared to leave for fear of further harm.
Another common tactic of an abuser is to isolate their partner, separating them from their loved ones in order to better control them. This can make leaving even more difficult.
Are You (or is a loved one) in an Abusive Relationship? The Warning Signs
What are the signs of an abusive relationship? There are a lot of red flags you can pay attention to, even very early on in a relationship:
· Possessive behaviour – as we looked at above, extreme jealousy and possessiveness can be an early red flag in a relationship.
· Demanding of your time – it’s totally normal to want to spend loads of time with someone when you’re in a new relationship. But if your partner is demanding that you spend all your time with them, and not allowing you to see your friends, then that is a warning sign to take notice of.
· Not allowing you privacy – a controlling partner may want to know everything you’re doing. They may want to check your social media and your text messages, and they might periodically check on you when you’re out with friends to see where you are and who you’re with.
· Making you feel small – they might insult you or make mean jokes about you, even in front of other people.
· Making you dress/behave in a certain way – they might force you to wear certain clothes, for example, and may get angry if you don’t want to.
· Aggression/violence – remember, physical abuse is not ‘just’ hitting. It can be shoving, kicking, even pinching. Aggression is not just physical, either – it can also be verbal.
· Name calling – Your partner may call you names, or insult you again and again, eroding your self-confidence.
· Threatening behaviour – your partner may threaten to hurt you, or even to hurt themselves (especially in response to you wanting to leave).
· Pressure – your partner may pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do. They may attempt to emotionally blackmail you into doing it, for example, by telling you that everyone else does it, or that you’ll make them upset if you don’t.
· Gaslighting – your partner may hurt you in some way, and then deny it. They may even get angry and say that you made the whole thing up, which could make you feel unsure of yourself. Over time, this can become a very distressing and chaotic way to live.
If you’re in, or have been, in an abusive relationship, then remember it isn’t your fault. If you have an adult you trust – like a family member, or teacher – then please consider speaking to them as soon as you can. If you need someone to talk to urgently, NSPCC or Refuge can help.
Revealed Projects runs a series of workshops with young people across North Somerset, covering many topics around self-esteem and healthy relationships. To find out more about our services, click here.