Talking about it is the first step to ending violence or abuse -- the more you talk about it the better. Getting a problem out into the open can really help.
Remember, you have the right to be free from abuse. There are people who can and want to help you. You are not alone.
Anyone can be hurt
Violence and abuse have many different faces. Physical acts such as pushing, shoving, grabbing, slapping, punching, and using an object or weapon, are clearly abusive. But so are other things like jealous outbursts, name-calling and unwanted sexual advances. All of them cause a great deal of pain. Anyone can be hurt in these and other ways. Even you…at any time.
It's not your fault
It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re male or female, rich or poor – anyone can be a victim of violence or abuse. If it happens to you, you may begin to blame yourself - don't. You have the right to be safe. Even if someone tells you it’s your fault, it’s not. The victim is never at fault when violence or abuse occurs.
It's also not OK
No one deserves to be abused – physically, sexually, or emotionally. Not you, not your parents, not your brothers or sister, not other family members, not your girlfriend or boyfriend. When you, or someone you love, becomes a victim of violence, the most important thing to do is get someone to help you. Sure, you’ll feel upset and confused. But don’t panic. There are people who will believe you and help you. And they’re not far away.
Why people get violent
It’s difficult to say exactly why someone you otherwise respect and trust commits a violent or abusive act. Usually, it comes from needing to control others. Regardless of what problems a person may have or why they’re happening, each person is responsible for his or her behavior. No one has the right to hit or abuse you. It's against the law.
Does your boyfriend or girlfriend, parent or relative:
- Hit, punch, slap, kick, shove you or twist your arm?
- Threaten to hurt you?
- Threaten to abandon you if you don’t do what s/he wants?
- Insult you or call you names?
- Constantly criticize your clothing?
- Have sudden outbursts of anger or rage?
- Keep you from going to work or school?
- Make you account for every minute of the time you’re not with him or her?
- Make all the decisions about where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do together?
- Frequently embarrass you in front of others?
- Make it hard for you to have contact with your other friends?
- Become jealous without reason?
- Force you to have sex against your will?
Are you using alcohol or drugs to cover emotional pain? While some of these are clearly more serious than others, any one should be a red flag that the relationship you’re in may be abusive.
Dating isn't always fun
Dating can be one of the best parts of growing up. But it can also be one of the hardest. Why? Because some people use dating to take advantage, or control you. The fact is that by the age of 18, one out of every four young women has experienced physical violence while dating. This way of treating another person would never be mistaken for love or caring.
Rape is not love
Love is about two people caring about each other and taking pleasure in being together. Love is about two people trusting each other. Love is about two people freely choosing to be together or have sex together.
Being forced to have sexual contact against your will is something different. It is called sexual abuse. No matter who does it. Being forced to have sexual intercourse against your will is called rape. No matter who does it. Both are crimes.
Forced sex is not about love, or sexual attraction or pleasure or intimacy. Its message is, “I am more powerful than you and I don’t care what you want.”
If we call it “rape” we think of it as being committed by a stranger. If we call it “forced sex” it is easier to recognize that it happens in a variety of relationships. One third of the time, forced sex is committed by an acquaintance, neighbor, friend, relative, co-worker or boyfriend. But no matter who does it, forced sex is still a crime.
If we call it rape, we think of physical force. But it can also be rape if you aren’t able freely and responsibly to say no or yes to having sex. Giving in if you’re threatened with harm isn’t consent. Giving in if you’re too drunk to say no isn’t consent. If you’re under seventeen, even if you do say yes, it isn’t legal consent. And even if they may not meet the legal definition of “rape,” fast talk, hard sell, shaming, emotional blackmail and other forms of manipulation still are not love. They are forms of force.
Rape can happen to anyone or be committed by anyone, regardless or color, race, age, family income, or job.
What about what's on TV?
Just because there’s violence against women on TV, in music you listen to, and in the newspaper, that doesn’t make violence okay. Sometimes we grow up thinking we can push people around and get what we want. But in real life violence isn’t followed by a commercial. In real life violence and abuse can hurt. In real life violence and abuse can kill.
Here's what to do
- When you’re in danger, try to get to a safe place and trust your sense of what is best.
- Keep important phone numbers on hand. In an emergency call 911 or the local police immediately. If you need to talk to someone, call one of the 24-hour hotlines below.
- At school, contact your guidance counselor or a trusted teacher.
- If you know a classmate who is being abused, give that person this information. Listen and help without judging or blaming them for being abused. Remember, it could happen to anyone.
- And if you know someone who is hurting another person, ask yourself: do I want to be associated with an abuser? Is there a trusted adult I can take this to?