Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Abuse at Home

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Is there abuse or violence happening in your home? If so, there are some important things you need to know.

There are different kinds of abuse. Abuse is when someone uses pain, fear, or humiliation to get their way. Here are some different kinds of abuse:

  • Physical abuse means causing pain by pushing, restraining, pinching, shaking, slapping, punching, choking, and so on.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse means name-calling, making threats, putting people down, humiliating and criticizing.
  • Sexual abuse means inappropriate or unwanted advances or touching for a sexual purpose, or pressuring a person to have sex or to do sexual things he or she doesn't want to do.

There is no excuse for abuse. Healthy relationships do not include abuse. Period. It's OK to have strong feelings, but it's not OK to express them by hurting others. No one has a right to abuse another person. And no one deserves to be abused—ever.

You are not to blame.

If there is abuse in your home, whether it's against your parent, brother, sister, or you, you are not to blame. The person who is abusing or being violent is responsible for those actions.

You are not alone. Abuse is an ugly secret in many homes. Lots of other children and teens experience abuse at home. More importantly, there are people who can help. They can help:

  • people who have experienced abuse,
  • people who have seen someone else being abused, and
  • people who are abusing someone else.

If you or anyone in your family is being abused, get help!

You may want to protect your family and not break the family secret, but it is very important that you tell.

If you or someone else in your family is in immediate DANGER:

  • Call 9-1-1 (if you can, go to another room or a neighbor's place to call).
  • Don't get in the middle or try to protect the person who is being hurt.
  • Stay away. Find a safe place in the house or at a neighbor's.

If you aren't feeling safe at home:

  • tell a teacher or school counselor;
  • talk to an adult you can trust, like the parent of a close friend; or
  • contact the police or a social worker.

While it's good to have friends who will listen to you and support you, they may not know what to do to get help. It's important to find a supportive adult who can help, not just a friend.

Here are a few other resources if you need more help: 

Growing up with abuse doesn't mean that you will continue the cycle.

If you’re worried about repeating the same patterns of abuse and violence in your own teen or adult relationships, there’s good news and bad news.

First, the bad news: Children who grow up in families where there is abuse learn from it and can carry what they've learned into future relationships. Some can learn to use force in order to get their way, and they can become abusers. Others can end up with low self-esteem and feel they don't deserve better, and they can become victims.

Now here's the good news: You have a choice. It is possible to unlearn the behavior you have learned from your family. And the key to making that choice is AWARENESS.

Here's what you can do to break the cycle:

  • Find out about the differences between healthy and abusive relationships.
  • Find out about dating violence so you know what to watch out for in your relationships.
  • Get counseling. A counselor can help you deal with your own feelings about what you have seen and experienced. That person can also help you develop healthy ways to deal with your anger.
  • Feel better about who you are. Remember that the violence you saw or experienced was not your fault. A counselor can help you to improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Are you wondering how to find a counselor? Talk to your school counselor, your family doctor, or another adult you trust. Ask for help to find out about programs in your community that can help. Most communities have services for victims of abuse and for abusers. More help resources.


Healthy and Abusive Relationships

In a healthy relationship, the partners

  • listen to each other;
  • consider each other's thoughts and feelings;
  • respect, trust, and support each other;
  • recognize each other's strengths and achievements;
  • respect each other's culture;
  • decide together if and when to have sex;
  • feel safe with each other, both alone and with others;
  • enjoy spending time with each other, both alone and with others;
  • encourage each other to spend time with friends and family; and
  • encourage each other to feel good about and take care of themselves.

In an abusive relationship, one person might

  • ignore the other person's feelings and wishes;
  • ignore or pretend not to hear the other person;
  • call the other person names;
  • put the other person down about the way he or she dresses, talks, walks, dances, and so on;
  • get jealous when the other person is around other guys or girls;
  • be suspicious about the other person's activities all the time;
  • control the other person with threats;
  • control how much time the other person spends with friends and family;
  • embarrass or tease the other person in a mean way;
  • play mean tricks on the other person;
  • not keep the other person's secrets;
  • act more friendly when alone with the other person than when around friends;
  • sulk when the other person doesn't do what he or she wants;
  • threaten suicide to get his or her own way;
  • encourage or pressure the other person to do things that make him or her uncomfortable;
  • show anger and use threats and/or violence to get his or her own way;
  • refuse to accept the other person's limits about sexual activity;
  • hit or push the other person around;
  • take or destroy the other person's possessions; or
  • hurt or threaten to hurt the other person's pet.

Do you recognize that you’re doing any of these things to another person? Are you having any of them done to you? If so, you may be in an abusive relationship. Whether you are the person abusing someone else or you’re the person being abused, get help. Talk to a school counselor, your family doctor, or another adult you trust. Ask for help to find a counsellor or community program. More help resources.


Dating Violence

The Facts 

Dating violence is any abuse—physical, sexual, emotional—of one partner by the other in a dating relationship. There are many different kinds of harmful acts besides physical violence and rape. All forms of abuse are harmful and are worth taking seriously.

Warning signs 

You may be experiencing dating violence if you are dating someone who

  • scares you;
  • tries to control you with orders and threats;
  • is jealous, possessive or suspicious;
  • doesn't like you spending time with family and friends;
  • embarrasses you by calling you names or criticizing you;
  • is violent (punches, hits, slaps, pinches, pushes, or threatens to do these things);
  • pressures you to have sex or to do things that make you uncomfortable;
  • abuses alcohol and/or drugs and pressures you to abuse them too;
  • blames you for his or her mistreatment of you;
  • has a history of bad relationships and always blames the other person in the relationship for what happened; or
  • makes you feel you deserve to be treated this way.

Getting Help 

If you recognize any of the warning signs for dating violence in your relationship, get help. Talk to a school counselor, your family doctor, or another adult you trust. Ask him or her to help you find a counselor or community program that can help.

More help resources:

See our Resources section for more. 

Q & A

I have so many questions. How much can I ask my parents?

If there are things you need to know, ask. You have a right to ask questions about what is going to happen and why.

Do I have to take sides, or choose one parent over the other?

No, you don't. You have the right to love and be loved by both parents.

If you are feeling pressured to take sides, and you feel you are caught in the middle of your parents' problems, tell them.

What will my friends say when they find out?

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. But separation and divorce are very common these days.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. You're still you, even though your family is changing.