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If You Are In An Abusive Relationship

What You Can Do

1. Know the early warning signs that you're in a dating situation or relationship that could have the potential to become violent.

* Your boyfriend or girlfriend pressures you, soon after you begin dating, to make the relationship very serious, or presses you to have sex.
* Your boyfriend or girlfriend becomes extremely jealous and possessive, and thinks these destructive displays of emotion are signs of love.
* Your boyfriend or girlfriend tries to control you and to forcefully make all decisions where the two of you are concerned, refusing to take your views or desires seriously. He/she may also try to keep you from spending time with close friends or family.
* Your boyfriend or girlfriend verbally and emotionally abuses you by doing such things as yelling at you, swearing at you, manipulating you, spreading false and degrading rumors about you, and trying to make you feel guilty.
* Your boyfriend or girlfriend drinks too much or uses drugs and then later blames the alcohol and drugs for his/her behavior.
* Your boyfriend or girlfriend threatens physical violence.
* Your boyfriend or girlfriend has abused a previous boyfriend or girlfriend or accepts and defends the use of violence by others.

      If you're in a dating relationship that in any way feels uncomfortable, awkward, tense or even frightening, trust your feelings and get out of it. It could become, or may already be, abusive.

Always remember: You have every right to say no. No boyfriend or girlfriend has the right to tell or what you can or should do, what you can or should wear, or what kind of friends you should have.

2. If you are in a violent, or potentially violent, relationship, take the following steps:

* Make a safety plan and get help. Talk with someone you trust-a teacher, a guidance counselor, a doctor, a friend or parent. You may also want to contact the police or a local domestic violence center or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE.
* If you want to stay in the relationship, realize that the violence will not just stop or go away. You cannot change your boyfriend or girlfriend's behavior by changing your behavior, nor are you in any way responsible for the abuse. Your boyfriend or girlfriend may need counseling or other outside help to change and you may need support so that you can begin to heal.

3. Be on the lookout for friends that may be in violent dating situations or relationships.

     Do any of your friends' relationships show the warning signs listed above? Do your friends show signs that they have been physically abused or injured in some way?

Friends in abusive relationships may also:
* Change their style of clothing or makeup;
* Seem to lose confidence in themselves and begin to have difficulty making decisions;
* Stop spending time with you and other friends;
* Begin to receive failing grades or quit school activities; and
* Turn to using alcohol or drugs.

      If you suspect a friend is in a violent relationship, you might try to find out for sure by saying something like, "You don't seem as happy as usual" or asking in general terms, "Is there anything you want to talk about?" This non-confrontational and indirect approach may prompt your friend to reveal what's wrong. Listen without judging, condemning, or giving unwanted advice. If a friend wants help, suggest that he or she take the steps listed above in order to be safe and find help.

     If you believe your friend is in serious danger, talk with an adult you trust immediately about your friend's situation so that you aren't carrying the burden by yourself. Do not try to "rescue" your friend or be a hero and try to handle the situation on your own.

4. Take action if you suspect that someone you know is being abusive.

     If you feel you are not in danger, talk to the person about his or her use of violence, and make sure that the person understands that it is both wrong and illegal. If the person is ready to make a change, help him or her to get help.

5. If you are hurting someone else, have the courage to get help!

      No matter what the other person does to provoke you, no matter how justified you feel, no matter what your friends do, it is never okay to harm someone else. Remember that physical and sexual violence are illegal and can land you in jail.

     You can learn new ways to deal with your anger, to fight fair, to communicate, and to give and get love in relationships. Don't let shame or fear stop you-talk to a parent, a teacher, a religious leader, a doctor, a nurse, or a guidance counselor immediately. You also can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE, and they can direct you to individuals and groups in your community who can help you to make a change.

6. Work to educate other teens about dating violence.

      Counsel peers, staff a hotline, or speak to classes about the signs of an abusive relationship and where to find help. Encourage your church or school to develop programs to educate teens about dating violence, and work to ensure that there are resources for teens that are being abused in your community.

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