Types of Abuse in Teenage Relationships And How To Identify You Are In One

Written By: Isabel Mateus

33% of adolescents in America today (DomesticViolence.org) have experienced abuse in their relationships in some way, shape or form. When we think of relationship abuse, a lot of us automatically think of physical violence. While this is recognized to be a very present issue in romantic relationships, there are other forms of abuse that are often ignored and normalized. Abuse between partners can be physical, psychological, isolative, or sexual. Here’s what you need to know about abuse in romantic teenage relationships. 

Physical Abuse

Physical violence within relationships is the most typically recognized type of abuse. Any sort of unwanted contact that causes harm is considered an act of violence, and should be taken seriously. Examples include hitting, kicking, throwing things, slamming, shoving, choking, and more. Relationships involving this type of abuse can be difficult to get out of, but help is available with hotlines made for the purpose of leaving a dangerous situation like this. (Domestic Violence Hotline)

Psychological Abuse 

Psychological abuse is arguably the most common form of mistreatment among teenage relationships. This kind of abuse can make the victim feel threatened, belittled, hurt, and confused. This is not to be confused with conflict– which is a normal and regular part in any relationship. Conflict happens all the time, and is often healthy for a relationship when not taken too far, but sometimes it is difficult to navigate the line between emotional abuse and normal arguing. Arguing and fighting with a significant other is normal and essential in expressing the emotions and thoughts that one might be feeling. It’s when arguing becomes more aggressive and frequent that a person should reevaluate the health and dynamic of their relationship. 

Manipulation is almost always very present in a toxic relationship. This can happen intentionally or subconsciously, but either way, the consistent use of things like gaslighting and guiltriping in a relationship is considered to be emotional abuse. Gaslighting happens when a person tries to convince their partner that something is their fault, or that something is not true when it is. This causes the victim to question their judgment, instinct, and sense of reality. 

Sexual Abuse 

Sexual assault is considered to be any sexual behavior that is carried out without the consent of both parties involved. Unwanted sexual acts can be committed by strangers, peers, or those with a powerful imbalance– but can also be present within romantic relationships. There is a common misconception that being in a relationship excuses or invalidates harassment within that relationship. Teenagers are more likely to be raped or sexually harassed by a romantic partner than a stranger. 

Another misconception is that sexual harassment is purely physical. While physical force is often present in cases, it is not the only form of sexual abuse. Any sort of pressure– guilt tripping, threatening, etc– being purposefully placed on a person to commit a sexual act is considered abuse. 

Consent is an agreement made between two people clarifying that they are both clearly and enthusiastically willing to engage in sexual activity. It is important to communicate about consent and when it’s being given/reciprocated in any intimate partnership. If the absence of consent is ignored and you need help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline


The tactic of isolation ties into psychological abuse, as it is a common form of manipulation in a toxic relationship. When a partner becomes overly possessive and controlling, that is a sign of attempted isolation. The goal of isolation in a relationship is to separate and filter someone from their other support systems and the people close to them, creating the victim to form a sense of dependence on their partner. This gives the abuser power over the victim and makes it easier to control them. 

  If your significant other wants you to be around them only and not your family, friends, or peers, it becomes unhealthy behavior. Some partners purposefully make the victim feel guilty for hanging out with other loved ones, and are often overly concerned with the victim’s communication with other people. This can increase slowly over time, making it difficult to pick out, but it’s important to recognize when you or someone else is falling victim to isolation in a relationship.

Recognize the Signs 

It is very easy to get caught up in another person and to ignore the signs of abuse or toxicity within the relationship. Many people don’t even see the signs until they are out of the relationship, and they have time to reflect on the behavior of their significant other. In any case, it is important to set boundaries, to communicate openly, to hold on to your standards, and to keep your outside supporters close to you. For severe cases of abuse, there are online resources and hotlines available everywhere. Separating yourself from an abusive relationship can be intimidating and often seems impossible to do. If you need help getting out of an abusive situation, use the resources available to you, including any friends and family.

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