This is ABUSE

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Below you'll find answers to all the most commonly asked questions about abuse in relationships. If you can't find the answer you need then please click here to see a list of organisations and registered charities that can help you.

What is domestic violence?Q:

Anyone can be a victim of abuse but it’s important to know that the law has changed regarding the definition of domestic abuse, more commonly known as domestic violence.

If you are 16 or over and have suffered one or more incidents of controlling or threatening behaviour or assault by a boy/girlfriend or a family member, you are a victim of domestic violence.   

Threatening or controlling behaviour can take the form of physical, sexual and emotional abuse amongst others. You can find out more about different types of abuse here.

Controlling behaviour is when someone cuts you off from friends and family or makes you reliant on them by taking away your independence. You have none of the freedoms everyone else takes for granted, such as talking to friends, using your phone, wearing what you want for example.

My partner and I do sexting, is that abuse?Q:

If you’re pressurising someone to send you sexually explicit pictures (sexting), this is abusive and not normal. There are consequences – if you pressurise someone to send sexually explicit pictures you could get a reputation as an abuser. If you share the pictures and they go on the internet, this could affect your future education and employment as well as the person who took them. There are also consequences if that explicit image is shared without the victim’s knowledge or agreement. By sending indecent pictures of a person under 18 on to someone else you are breaking the law.


You’d probably be surprised to know how many boys suffer from abuse in their relationships – many more than society leads us to think. The fact is that 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse and often this is from someone just a few years older than them and with who they are in a relationship. It doesn’t matter if it’s sexual, physical or emotional, abuse is wrong, and it’s never the victim’s fault.

We live in a society where boys are told from a very young age that being masculine or manly means you should be able to protect yourself and those people who are close to you, and if bad things do happen, you should be able to look after yourself. Some boys feel the very fact that they have suffered abuse somehow weakens them in their own or other people’s eyes. Some boys are scared of being laughed at, teased, judged or criticised, or that friends and family simply won’t believe them. Boys think they should be able to shrug off emotional, physical and sexual abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend, and that talking about it or asking for help makes them less manly. But this isn’t true, nobody thinks boys who are abused are any less manly.

Abuse is difficult and traumatic to deal with, and it can be even harder when you’re a boy and the person hurting you is your girlfriend or boyfriend.  If you're a boy in a relationship with another boy and worried about being open about your sexuality, that can make it harder to ask for help or to tell anyone.  You might feel what you’re doing is wrong or that you deserve bad things to happen. If you’re a boy being abused by a girl, you might be worried about what your friends will think, about whether they might see you as less male because the one hurting you is female.

If you're a boy who has previously been abused in a relationship, is currently being abused or feeling pressured into doing things that you feel are wrong, then you may also be facing some difficulties that girls won't. If the abuse is sexual, you may have had a physical reaction to the experience (an erection or ejaculation) but it’s important to understand this doesn't mean you enjoyed it or wanted it, it’s just the way your body responded, you have no control over that. And it happens to most boys in that situation.

Relationship abuse can leave both boys and girls feeling very lonely and cut off from friends and family - you feel different from others around you, and not sure that any help is available. Boys and girls have the same rights to protection, help and advice.  The organisations listed below are specialists at helping boys, they will listen, make you feel safer and provide confidential support and advice on abuse.

Respect run the Men’s Advice line on 0808 801 0327 (calls are free from landlines and most mobiles), they provide confidential help, support and advice to male victims of domestic violence. Alternatively you can email or visit

SurvivorsUK supports adult men over the age of 18 who have experienced sexual violation at any time in their lives. They offer a Helpline Webchat (Monday & Tuesday 6-9pm, Wednesday 12-2:30pm & 6-9pm, Thursday 12-2:30pm) for male survivors; visit for more information.

You can also call ChildLine on 0800 1111 to talk about any problem or go to where you can contact ChildLine by email and text, chat to a counsellor online or post to the message boards.

What is abuse? Q:

Abusive behaviour can be:
•    violent (hitting, kicking, slapping)
•    emotional (humiliating and putting you down)
•    sexual (forcing you to do sexual acts you don’t want to)

Abusive relationships can start with verbal or emotional abuse and could happen to anyone (including those in same-sex relationships). It can often escalate into physical abuse, by which time your self-esteem is likely to be damaged.

Some warning signs of potential violence and abusive behaviour are:
•    extreme jealousy
•    anger when you want to spend time with your friends
•    isolating you from friends and family
•    trying to control your life (how you dress, who you hang out with and what you say)
•    humiliating you, putting you down
•    threatening to harm you or to self–harm if you leave them
•    demanding to know where you are all the time
•    monitoring your calls and emails, threatening you if you don’t respond instantly
•    excessive alcohol drinking and drug use
•    explosive anger
•    using force during an argument
•    blaming others for his/her problems or feelings
•    being verbally abusive
•    threatening behaviour towards others
•    pressuring you to send sexual texts and images of yourself
•    someone sharing any sexual text and images of you with their mates

How can I keep myself safe when out and about?Q:

Here are some safety tips that you might find useful when out and about:

  • Be clear about where you are going, who you are with and how you will get home
  • Let others know if you are feeling uncomfortable or uneasy in a situation
  • Know your boundaries and be comfortable about expressing them
  • Be aware! Drink and drugs can affect your reactions as well as your ability to be alert
  • If you are using the internet, be very careful with who you are chatting to online. Unfortunately there are people out there who use the internet as a way of meeting young people purely for the purposes of sexual assault or rape. If you do make friends online and you want to meet them you should definitely tell an adult about plans. 


If you think you can spot some of the warning signs of abuse in your friend’s relationship, the person who is being abused needs professional help and your encouragement and support to stop it. 
Approach the subject in a sensitive way, such as saying ‘I am worried about you because….’. Let them know that the abuse is not their fault, it’s unacceptable and that support is available. 

It can be useful to think up a code word that they can use on the phone to let you know they need help. 
Don't ignore the issue if you think it is happening. When you try to talk to them, try not to make them feel judged as it takes courage to admit abuse. 
Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult, and if their partner has been violent or forced them to have sex, encourage them to talk to the police. You shouldn’t confront their partner on your own and neither should your friend. 
If your friend wants to speak to someone in confidence encourage them to contact these helplines:

For girls - National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 
For boys - Respect 0800 802 4040 

Or you can ring Childline 
0800 11 11


Stalking is one of the most common abusive behaviours. If you’re being stalked it can be very frightening. You can be stalked by a partner or ex-partner as well as strangers.

Stalking can mean all kinds of behaviours such as:

•    regularly sending unwanted flowers or gifts
•    frequent unwanted contact in person, by telephone, online or emails
•    damaging property 
•    harassment of people close to you 
•    physical or sexual assault

If the behaviour is persistent, clearly unwanted and causes you fear, harassment or anxiety, then it is stalking and you don’t have to live with it. 

If you feel you’re in danger, call the police on 999 at any time.

You can also ring The National Stalking Helpline on 0800 802 0300 or visit: 

What do I do if my girlfriend is the one who's being violent?Q:

If you're a young man who's experiencing violence at the hands of your female partner (and this may include being pressured into sexual activities you don't want) then it may be especially hard for you to tell someone.  Some people have told us that they would feel less manly if someone knew that were being abused by a girl, that it would be shameful.  And others have told us about situations where their female partner threatened to tell authorities that they were being abused by them in order to keep them silent.  Talking about what's happening is really important and you can get help if your partner is violent, controlling or sexually abusive.  Try talking to a trusted adult. If you don’t think you can do this, you can speak in confidence by calling the helpline for males experiencing domestic abuse. Call freephone 0808 801 0327, email or visit


It can be very hurtful when someone you care for treats you badly. Your partner could be a bully one moment and nice to you the next, but if someone really likes or loves you, they should always treat you with respect. Controlling, teasing, bullying and humiliating are all forms of emotional abuse. Staying in a relationship where you are being emotionally abused could cause you to lose your self-esteem and confidence. An abusive, violent or controlling relationship is not normal or acceptable; nobody needs to tolerate this behaviour and if the bullying is making you worried you need to speak to a trusted adult. If you need to talk to someone in confidence contact Childline on 0800 11 11, or visit


It can be very hard deciding to leave a relationship, no matter what’s happened. If you’ve experienced relationship abuse it can be even harder. You may be worried about what your partner will say or do, so it’s really important that you talk to someone about what you’re planning to do and try not to end the relationship when you are on your own with your partner. You may want to keep a bag of things (like clothes, passport, and important documents) with a friend so that they are there if you need them. Remember, you deserve to be safe and there is help and support available.

You can find more information and a safety plan here:

If you’re a girl, call Refuge 0808 2000 247. Boys can call the Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327.

Ending a relationship can be difficult and upsetting but if you’re being abused it’s important for your long-term physical and mental health that you end the relationship. All physical or sexual abuse is illegal (it doesn’t matter that you are dating) and you must always report it to the police or a trusted adult.


Nobody deserves to be abused. It’s never your fault or “just the way things are”. Abuse will have a long-term effect on your confidence and can lead to depression, isolation and ill health. If you are being abused tell a trusted adult or contact any of the following helplines in confidence: For girls - National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 
For boys - the Men's Advice Line 0808 801 0327 
you can also call Childline 0800 11 11 or The Samaritans 08457 90 90 90

Does relationship abuse only happen between boyfriends and girlfriends? Q:

No. Relationship abuse can happen to anyone, including those who are in same sex relationships. If you are a male victim of abuse you can get information and advice from Respect on 0800 802 4040 (free from landlines and most mobiles). If you are in a same sex relationship and you recognise some of the signs of abuse, contact Broken Rainbow


Is abuse against the law? Q:

Many abusive behaviours in relationships are against the law. For example, if your partner hits you, it’s assault. If they force you to carry out sexual acts or force you into sex, this is sexual abuse or rape. Being threatened or harassed by a partner is just as much a crime as violence from a stranger. If this is happening to you do not confront your partner on your own. Please speak to a trusted adult or the police.

My partner checks my text messages all the time. Is this abuse? Q:

If your partner tries to control you by checking your text messages and wants to know who you are with all the time, you need to do something about it. This is controlling behaviour that can escalate from verbal and emotional abuse to physical violence. 

If your partner is extremely jealous and controlling this will have an impact on your mental and physical health. If their controlling behaviour gets worse you have to think about ending the relationship, but don’t confront them on your own.

My boyfriend says everyone is having sex but I still don’t feel ready. What should I do? Q:

It is a common myth that “everyone is doing it”, but the average age for having sex for the first time is 16. Many people wait until they’re older. Even if you’ve had sex before it doesn’t mean you have to rush into doing it with your current boyfriend. Sexual relationships come with risks such as unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and you always have the right to withhold consent. If he cares for you he will understand why you want to wait. If you are under 16 it’s against the law for you to have sex. If your boyfriend is older than 16 he could be charged with rape if you enter into a sexual relationship with him. If you’ve been forced by your boyfriend to have sex against your will (or suffered any form of sexual abuse) then this is rape (it doesn’t matter that you are going out with each other) and you need to inform a trusted adult. If you want to speak to somebody in confidence contact Rape Crisis on 0808 802 9999.

My partner is abusive, but at least I’ve got a partner, right? Q:

Nobody deserves to be abused. Being in an abusive relationship can lead to long-term problems with your emotional and physical health. You have the right to be treated with respect. If you are in abusive relationship there is a lot of support available to you. Find out more here.

I am in an abusive relationship. Where do I go for help? Q:

If you are in an abusive relationship never confront your partner on your own. Try speaking to a trusted adult (family member, teacher, youth worker). If you would rather speak to someone in confidence we have a list of organisations that can help you here.

Abuse can happen to anyone, including men. If your partner is violent, controlling or sexually abusive, try talking to a trusted adult. If you don’t think you can do this, you can speak in confidence using the helpline for males experiencing domestic abuse. Call freephone 0808 801 0327, email or visit


I don’t have a choice about what I can say yes or no to, the gang is telling me what to do. Q:

If you are being pressurised or expected to engage in any activity, you can get help.

Sometimes young people feel that they have a role within a gang, and that they do not have choices, and must do what others members of the gang expect of them, be it sexual or illegal, or just something you don’t want to do.

For girls, if your boyfriend or a boy you know is a member of a gang, you may feel pressurised into doing something sexually with other members of the gang just because you’ve had sex with one member of the gang. This is abuse, and you can get help. 

For boys, if you are a member of a gang and you are being pressured into doing something you don’t want to you can get help. 

You can find out more and get help, if you are worried about gang activity, by calling the NSPCC to speak to a trained advisor who understands the pressures of being involved in a gang on 0808 800 5000 or emailing You can also call ChildLine on 0800 1111.


I’m involved with a gang member and I’m worried people would hurt me if I tried to leave him.Q:

Sometimes young people experience violence and controlling behaviour from other people who are part of a group or gang. If you’re in this situation, you may be worried that if you tried to leave your partner or the group, then other people in the group would hurt you or someone else you care about. 

You can find out more and get help, if you are worried about gang activity, by calling the NSPCC to speak to a trained advisor who understands the pressures of being involved in a gang on 0808 800 5000 or emailing You can also call ChildLine on 0800 1111.


I’m in a gang and I think I’m being abused. I don’t know who to ask for help? Q:

If you are being abused, it is important that you seek help, irrespective of any wrong-doing.  Sometimes part of being abused includes being pressured to do things you don’t want to do. 

When you ask for help about abuse, you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to talk about.

You can find out more and get help, if you are worried about gang activity, by calling the NSPCC to speak to a trained advisor who understands the pressures of being involved in a gang on 0808 800 5000 or emailing You can also call ChildLine on 0800 1111.

My boyfriend watches porn online and he expects me to do things that he’s seen in porn films.Q:

 Pornography doesn't reflect 'real life' sex and people who watch porn can sometimes think that it gives a true picture of sex and relationships, and can have unrealistic expectations about sex.  The people in the porn films are actors, who sometimes have cosmetically enhanced bodies, and can sometimes perform extreme acts.  This isn’t a true representation of what ‘real life’ sex is like for couples and if your partner is pressuring you into doing something you are not comfortable with, this is abuse.

You may also have seen pornography online and been upset or distressed by it, you can contact the NSPCC for further help and advice. 


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