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Dating Violence

Abuse is a serious issue that unfortunately affects too many of us. It’s important to not keep abuse a secret. No matter who you are, abuse is not your fault, and no one deserves abuse. If you know about abuse that is happening, or if you are experiencing abuse tell an adult you trust. Teens in Manitoba can also use crisis lines for support. The Klinic Crisis Line is 204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019, Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868, both are free.

Abuse can happen in any type of relationship. It can happen between:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Romantic partners
  • Teacher/student
  • Coach/athlete, etc.

Here, we focus only on abuse in teen romantic relationships. But, if someone is experiencing abuse in other relationships, they can still use the information here because the issues are often similar.

For more information on family violence, or abuse between friends or peers (bullying), check out the websites and counselling services here.

What Does Abuse Look Like?

Abuse is about two things: power and control.

To explain it in the simplest way, abuse is happening when someone is trying to control another person by taking away their power (strengths).

So when we talk about “power”, we’re talking about someone’s strengths and qualities.

If someone really liked to play soccer, then someone using abuse might:

  • Put their partner down and tell them they suck.
  • Injure them so they can’t play.
  • Wreck their equipment.
  • Take their money so they can’t pay any fees.
  • Say things that make their partner feel awkward in their uniform.

In the same situation, a supportive partner might:

  • Encourage the person playing soccer.
  • Go to their games.
  • Give them time to practice.

At the end of the day, someone is making a CHOICE between being a supportive partner or an abusive one.

Someone using abuse might make excuses like:

  • “I was drunk”
  • “I’m just trying to protect you”
  • “I can’t help it”
  • “You did something to set me off”
  • “I grew up being abused”


No matter what the excuse, abuse is never ok. Abuse is always a choice. If people get abusive when they are drinking, then they shouldn’t drink around their partner. There are a lot of people who were abused when they were younger and don’t become abusive when they’re older. The excuses are all about avoiding responsibility and putting the blame on the victim.

People using abuse don’t get abusive towards teachers, cops or parents, because they can get in trouble for that. They are more likely to be abusive with their partner if they think they can get away with it.

Types of Abuse
Abuse can be put into different categories:

  • Verbal/Emotional/Mental/Psychological (all one category)
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Spiritual

Verbal/Emotional/Psychological Abuse

These could look like:

  • Insulting something that is important to their partner such as their clothes, friends, family, hobbies, etc.
  • Isolating their partner and cutting them off from family and friends.
  • Intimidating their partner and trying to control them, usually out of jealousy and anger.
  • Stalking someone (could also be physical abuse).
  • Preventing their partner from practicing their religion/spirituality, forcing them to practice a religion/spirituality, or making fun of them because of it (spiritual abuse).
  • Threatening suicide.

For the last one, always remember that no one is responsible for their partner’s life, and threats of suicide are not a good reason to stay in an abusive relationship. Your partner needs to talk to someone and could call the Manitoba Suicide Line at 1-877-435-7170. For more on suicide, check out the mental health section of the website.

Physical Abuse

This could look like:

  • Punching/Kicking/Pushing/Hitting/Burning someone.
  • Restraining or holding someone so they can’t leave.
  • Throwing things/punching walls/threatening someone so the person is intimidated.
  • Play-fighting and pinching can be physical abuse too, if it’s taken too far. If one person feels like it is abuse, then it often is abuse.

When physical abuse happens, often people are hurt in areas that are easily covered by clothes. This shows again that abuse is a choice, because the person using abuse is thinking about how their partner will be able to hide it.

Sexual Abuse

This could look like:

  • Rape (85% of teens who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone they know).
  • Unwanted touching.
  • Getting someone drunk of stoned in order to have sex with them.
  • Not stopping sex when the other person wants to stop.
  • Trying to force someone to say “yes” to sex or guilt them into have sex.
  • Sending someone unwanted sexual texts or pictures, or forcing someone to send them to you.

Financial Abuse

This could look like:

  • Stealing money or other objects.
  • Guilt-tripping someone into giving you money (by making them feel bad).
  • Not letting someone have a job or go to school so they become dependent.
  • Forcing someone to work and taking their money.
  • Another type of financial abuse can be when someone buys gifts and acts really nice around their partner’s family and friends, but is really mean to their partner in private. The family and friends are less likely to believe that abuse is happening.

Spiritual Abuse

This could look like:

  • Making fun of someone’s spiritual/religious beliefs or practices.
  • Not allowing someone to practice their spiritual/religious beliefs.
  • Forcing someone to abandon their spirituality/religion.
  • Forcing someone to adopt a particular spiritual/religious belief.

If you need someone to talk to about any type of abuse, give the Klinic Crisis Line a call at 204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019.

Why is it Hard to Leave an Abusive Relationship?
  • Not Ready to Leave – need to rebuild self-esteem, find a new job/school, there are kids involved, etc.
  • Love/Like/Care – may still have feelings for the abusive partner.
  • Threats of Suicide – check out the “Verbal/Emotional” abuse section above.
  • Dependence – the person might be isolated from others and not have income.
  • Hope – wish that the abuse won’t continue, although abuse often repeats itself.
  • Fear – of many things such as fear that their partner will become more violent with them; of telling parents/guardian (especially hard in a same sex relationship if they haven’t come “out” to their parents); that abuse will affect their reputation; of rumours; and/or of losing friends if they have to switch schools.

In many situations, the BEST way to stop abuse is to leave the relationship. If you decide to end the relationship, try to do it in a public place with lots of people around. If you’re deciding to stay in the relationship, you could make a  safety plan that includes having a bag packed in case of emergency, having a list of people you can call and safe places to go. If you need someone to talk to about any type of abuse, give the Klinic Crisis Line a call at 204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019.


What Can You Do?

What can you do if you are experiencing abuse?

  • Remember that it is never your fault.
  • Tell someone that you trust about what is going on. This could be a family member, close friend, counsellor, elder, teacher or phone line, like the Manitoba Klinic Crisis Line, 1-888-322-3019 or Kids Help Phone, 1-800-668-6868.
  • Go for counselling somewhere that will help you and be non-judgmental. For people in Manitoba, the Klinic Crisis Line ( 1-888-322-3019 ) can let you know what options you have.
  • Make a safety plan for yourself. If you decide to end the relationship, try to do it in a public place with lots of people around. If you’re deciding to stay in the relationship, your safety plan could include having a bag packed in case of emergency, having a list of people you can call and safe places to go.
  • Do things that make you feel good about yourself as it can be hard to feel good when you’re treated badly.

What can you do if a friend is experiencing abuse?

  • Listen without judging the other person.
  • Be supportive and don’t try to control or criticize them. That will make them less likely to get help.
  • Check in with them as much as you can.
  • Tell an adult you trust.
  • Encourage them to call a phone line, talk to a counsellor or visit a teen clinic.
  • Talk to someone about it yourself, because it’s hard seeing a friend in that situation.

Often people find it hard to talk about abuse because they don’t know how other people are going to react. That means it’s important to be open and non-judgmental, so people don’t keep abuse a secret.

What can you do if a friend is using abuse?

Sometimes people think that if you are witnessing abuse or disrespectful behaviour you only have two choices: get physically involved or do nothing. In reality, there are a bunch of choices on how to intervene in any situation. We should always think about our safety and the safety of the people around us. For example if someone is using abusive language you could:

  • Say something (like “that’s not cool”)
  • Wait until you are alone with your friend and ask them about what’s going on, letting them know you aren’t alright with it.
  • When alone, ask your friend how they are feeling about the situation because their behaviour is probably coming from a place of hurt or anger. Let them know that feeling upset is ok, but their behaviour isn’t.
  • Stop hanging out with your friend who uses abuse.
  • Tell an adult that you trust.
  • Check in with their partner and ask how they would like to be supported.
  • Reflect on how the situation made you feel.
  • Reach out for support. Supporting a friend can be difficult so we need to reach out for non-judgmental support from friends, family, teachers, or guidance counsellors we can trust. Teens in Manitoba can call the Klinic Crisis Line (204-786-8686) or in Winnipeg, go for free drop-in counselling at Klinic (545 Broadway).

What can you do if you are using abuse?

  • Take responsibility and admit to yourself that you have a problem.
  • Talk to someone about it like a counsellor, support group, family member, friend, or phone line, etc.
  • Try to learn different ways of communicating and expressing your feelings. Learn your triggers such as noticing when you are starting to get angry by your face turning red, clenching teeth or fists.
  • Leave the relationship, and give the other person space.
  • Work on changing your behavior. (It is possible, remember that you are not bad person but have bad behavior.)

Healthy Relationships
Everyone’s list would look a little different, but some things you might want or expect from a healthy relationship could be:

  • Equality
  • Affection
  • Trust
  • Respect
  • No Violence
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty
  • Common Interests and/or Different Interests
  • Giving each Other Space
  • Respecting Boundaries Around Sex
  • Sense of Humor
  • Fun
  • Like/Love/Care
  • …and on and on and on!


These aren’t things we should just hope for. If we expect these things, then it will be easier to avoid an unhealthy relationship. Healthy relationships take work, but they should be enjoyable too! We don’t always see good examples of healthy relationships in our lives or in the media, so it’s important to find good role models!

Make your own list of what you want out of a relationship or what you want your healthy relationship to be like. No matter who you are, what your age is or what your life experience has been…EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP!

Questions About Dating Violence

How common is abuse in teen relationships?
Generally speaking, many teen relationships are not abusive and have the potential to be really healthy. Unfortunately, we also know that abuse can and does happen in teen relationships, which means we need to take it seriously. Abuse can happen in boy-girl relationships, or in same sex couples (two boys dating or two girls dating), it can also happen between friends and family members. All forms of abuse are serious. If someone has been abused remember that it is never your fault. There are places you can call or go for help if you or someone you know is being abused: a school guidance counselor; trusted family member; teacher; friend; or a phone line like the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), or in Manitoba, the Klinic Crisis Line (204-786-8686/1-888-322-3019).
Why are people abusive to their partners?
It’s a good question that doesn’t really have an easy answer. Most often abuse happens when someone wants to control their partner and they use emotional, physical, sexual, financial, and/or spiritual abuse to get that control. When people act abusively, they are making a choice how to behave. How someone grew up, being drunk or high, or feeling angry or jealous is never a valid excuse for abuse. Abuse is always wrong, and it is never the fault of the person being abused.

If someone realizes they’re acting abusively, it is possible for someone to change their behaviour. Changing abusive (or unhealthy) behaviour isn’t easy, but if people work at it and find support they can learn new and healthier ways of being in a relationship. If someone has used abuse they can talk about how they are feeling with a guidance counsellor, trusted family member, teacher, friend, or a phone line like the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), or in Manitoba, the Klinic Crisis Line (204-786-8686/1-888-322-3019).

For more information on what abuse is scroll up to the top of this page.

How do you know if you are in an abusive relationship?

Some examples of abuse are really easy to spot. For example, with physical abuse, most of us know it’s not ok to hit, shove, slap, or otherwise hurt a partner. But other forms of abuse can be harder to see like emotional or sexual abuse. We listed some of the ways abuse can happen in a relationship (to see more examples, scroll up to the top of this page)…

    • Insults and name calling
    • Criticizing your clothes, your friends or the way you look
    • Following you around, texting/phoning you all the time and demanding to know where you are
    • Trying to stop you from seeing your friends or family
    • Hitting, shoving, pinching, slapping you, or throwing things
    • Threatening to hurt you or themselves if you leave
    • Blaming you for the hurtful things they say or do
    • Trying to force you to have sex

If you feel like you may be in an abusive relationship, talk to someone about it. You can talk about a relationship with a guidance counselor, at a teen clinic, with a trusted friend or family member, or in Manitoba, use the Klinic Crisis Line (204-786-8686/1-888-322-3019), or Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868). Talking about it can help you sort out your feelings and help you get support.

If you’re abused as a child, would you become abusive when you’re older?
When someone is abused as child, it can be very traumatic and affect them in a really big way. One of the biggest impacts of growing up in an abusive household is that unhealthy relationships can be made to look normal. This is why it’s important for all of us to learn what a healthy relationship looks like so that we can all make healthy choices in our lives. It’s never a child’s fault if they were abused. In fact, many people who experience abuse when they’re younger decide that they never want anyone else to be abused like they were.

Is it possible to have a relationship without any form of abuse?
This is such an important question and yes, it is possible! Respect, fun, support, understanding, time apart/time together, attraction, and affection are all qualities of a healthy relationship. Knowing what the qualities of a healthy relationship are can make it easier to see when things are unhealthy. The list of healthy qualities can be long and at Teen Talk we encourage you to make your own list and keep adding to it. You can make this list before you start dating or at any time, and keep it handy to remind yourself of what you want from a relationship. Everyone deserves a healthy relationship, and should expect one.

Having a healthy relationship takes work too, and we can’t expect it to be perfect all the time. It can help to find other healthy relationships to model ourselves after. This can be difficult, because we don’t always see healthy relationships on TV or in the world around us. When you see couples in real life or in the media, ask yourself, is that what I want for myself? Are they being respectful? Does seeing the way they treat each other make me feel good or bad? The more we see other people treating each other well and working at having healthy relationships, the more we feel inspired to work at having healthy relationships for ourselves.

How do I know if my relationship is healthy?
Great question! Healthy relationships can help us feel better about ourselves and our place in the world. Anyone who is ready to date deserves to feel happy, safe, and respected in a relationship. Here’s a list of things that make up a healthy relationship:

• Do you listen to each other’s ideas?
• Do you treat each other as friends?
• Do you understand each other’s need to hang out with other friends?
• Do you both admit when you are wrong?
• Do you both tell the truth without fear?
• Do you get to take turns choosing which new movie to see?
• Do you talk openly about your feelings with each other?
• Are you able to work through disagreement?
• Do you look forward to spending time together?
• Do you enjoy each other’s company?
• Are you and your partner attracted to each other?

If you answered yes to most of these questions you may be feeling like your relationship is a healthy one. If you found yourself answering no to some or all of these questions you may asking yourself if this is a healthy relationship. The qualities on this list are a checklist, and everyone has the right to expect these things in a relationship.

Can guys get abused in dating relationships?
Yes, abuse can happen to anyone in a dating relationship. When a guy experiences abuse from a female partner, it is more likely to be verbal, emotional or financial abuse. When he experiences abuse from a male partner, than sexual and physical abuse might occur more often. Having said this, we know that females can also use sexual and physical abuse, but the rates are much lower than with guys. All types of abuse should be taken seriously and can be damaging.

In some situations it can be difficult for a guy to come forward to get help because society expects him to act tough. Some guys don’t want to talk about abuse because they are worried about being judged. No one deserves to be abused and it’s ok to ask for help. You can talk about a relationship with a guidance counselor, at a teen clinic, with a trusted friend or family member, or in Manitoba, use the Klinic Crisis Line (204-786-8686/1-888-322-3019), or Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868).

I was abused by my partner, is it possible to trust again?
This is a good question with no easy answer. Everyone one of us is different and each relationship different. Abuse is hard to deal with and can be hard to recover from; it can make people unsafe and cautious, even after the relationship has ended. Some things that make it easier to heal and be open to trusting again in new relationships are having supportive people in your life, talking to a counselor about your feelings, and finding lot’s of healthy ways to cope. Abuse can be hard and the effects can be long lasting, but know that you are not alone and that sometimes people feel like they need to talk about their experience again. Even if it feels like talking about it didn’t help the first time, sometimes it works better the second time around.

There is always support available in Manitoba through the Klinic Crisis Line at (204)786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019, or the Sexual Assault Crisis Line at (204)786-8631 or 1-888-292-7565. Both numbers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What can I do if I have a baby and can’t get out of an abusive relationship?
It can be hard to leave an abusive relationship if there are kids involved. You don’t have to go through this situation alone, try to talk to someone who can help you: a parent or guardian or other adult relative, a guidance counselor, teacher, social worker, teen clinic, or in Manitoba, the Klinic Crisis Line at (204)786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019 (it’s free and confidential). The people you talk to can help you sort out the situation, and help you plan for what you need to keep you and your baby healthy and safe.

If you feel that you or your baby is in danger, call the police and try to stay with a friend or family member where you and your baby will be safe.

Remember that no one ever deserves to be abused and the abuse is not your fault.

If my partner hit me, is it wrong to hit them back?
This could be a difficult situation with no easy answer. Hitting a partner is physical abuse, and it’s not your fault if you are being hit or abused. People might hit back because they need to defend themselves or want to get back at their partner. Depending on the situation hitting back may make the situation worse (making the other person more mad and violent) or could make the abuse stop (if they back down). Something to keep in mind is that regardless of who started the physical fight, you can be charged if you injure your partner.

In healthy relationships there is no hitting or abuse. If there abuse happening in your relationship, you can try talking to someone about it. You don’t have to go through this situation alone, try to talk to someone who can help you: a parent or guardian or other adult relative, a guidance counselor, teacher, social worker, teen clinic, or in Manitoba, the Klinic Crisis Line at (204)786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019 (it’s free and confidential). The people you talk to can help you sort out the situation, and help you plan for what you need to keep yourself safe.

I think I’ve been abusive, what should I do?
Admitting that your behavior is abusive is the first step. This usually means taking responsibility for your actions without blaming your partner or making excuses.  Many people have done things they aren’t proud of in relationships, and can change their behavior if they work at it. Try talking about it with someone you trust and look up to. You could talk about how you feel when you act in certain ways and how you would like to act differently. It helps to look at your behavior and learn new ways of dealing with your emotions. If you are acting abusively with a partner, you may want to think about ending the relationship to get some space and time to work on acting differently.

You can try asking for help from a guidance counselor or at a teen clinic. In Manitoba, you could also call the Klinic Crisis Line, (204)786-8686 or toll free, 1-888-322-3019. If you live in Winnipeg, you could go to Klinic on Broadway (545 Broadway Ave.) for free drop-in counseling Monday to Wednesday from 12:00 to 7:00 pm and Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 12:00 to 4:00 pm.  It is free and you don’t need permission from your parents.

My friend is in an abusive relationship, how can I help them?
It’s stressful knowing that someone we care about is in an abusive relationship. We want the best for our friends, and we don’t want to see them get hurt. It is probably a good idea to assess how much danger they are in. If your friend is telling you that he or she is scared of their partner, that they have been physically hurt by them, it is a good idea to encourage your friend to talk to other people about what’s going on.  This can help them sort out what they are going through and figure out a plan to keep themselves safe and healthy. You could go with them, or you could go yourself, because you might need your own support. You and your friend can use the school guidance counsellor or other adult you trust, a teen clinic, the Klinic Crisis Line (204)786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019, Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868, or if you are in Winnipeg you can try Drop-In Counselling (545 Broadway Ave.), Mon to Wed from 12 to 7pm and Tues, Fri and Sat from 12 to 4pm (it’s free).

If your friend is not afraid of their partner and there is a low risk of physical harm, then they may be describing an unhealthy relationship, which is also a very tough situation to be in. Being there for your friend and listening can be a huge help. Try to spend time with your friend doing things that are enjoyable and that you both like to do.  Try to listen to your friend without judging them and remind them often that it’s not their fault. You can tell them that you think what is happening to them is wrong and unfair.  You can talk about what you both think a healthy relationship would look like.

If your friend stays in the relationship, try not to nag or criticize them, it can make them less likely to come to you for support. Asking what you can do to help is often better than telling your friend what you think is best. They’re the ones most affected by the relationship, so they have to be the ones who feel in charge of what happens.

How can you get out of an abusive relationship safely?
Leaving an abusive relationship can be difficult but there are things that can make leaving safer. If you haven’t already, talk to someone you trust about what’s going on. You don’t have to go through this alone, and it can be easier to leave when you have help. It could be a friend but try to also have some trusted adult involved because it’s their role to keep younger people safe. They can also help you make a plan to get out of the relationship as safely as possible.

In some cases, the police might get involved. Having a protection order may stop the person that you are afraid of from coming into contact with you. It is important to document the things that your partner has done that make you feel that your safety is being threatened.

Safety planning really depends on your particular situation, but some things that can make leaving an abusive relationship safer are by being around people who care about you (at home, when you go out, or in between classes at school). You also may want to change usernames, passwords, and email addresses, and make your online settings as private as possible. You don’t have to talk to the other person, on-line or face-to-face, if you feel threatened or afraid.

You can ask for help at a teen clinic, the Klinic Crisis Line (204)786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019, the Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868, or if you are in Winnipeg you can try Drop-In Counselling (545 Broadway Ave.), Mon to Wed from 12 to 7pm and Tues, Fri and Sat from 12 to 4pm (it’s free).  If you are in Winnipeg and need temporary shelter call Macdonald You Services, (204)477-1804 or the Ndinawe Safe House, (204)586-2588.

My partner is abusive, but I still have feelings for them?
It can be hard to leave an abusive relationship and it’s not usual for people to still have feelings for the other person. When people are in abusive relationships they really hope the other person will change. Sometimes we even think we can help them act differently, or change what we do so that that they don’t act abusively toward us. Try to remind yourself that abuse is not your fault, and no matter how much we care for someone or how much we want them to be different, we can’t make people change. Sometimes the only way we stop abuse from happening is to leave the relationship.

If you haven’t already, talk to someone you trust about what’s going on. You don’t have to go through this alone, and it can be easier to make sense of it all when you have help. The better you feel about yourself and life, the less likely you’ll be to hang onto a relationship that is abusive. Try thinking about all the things you want from a relationship. Things like respect, and good times, and being able to be yourself, and feeling supported. It may help show if that stuff is missing from your relationship. Try to remind yourself that healthy relationships make you feel better about yourself, not worse.

I have a friend who keeps touching me. What should I do?
If you feel comfortable doing so, you can start by telling your friend to stop touching you. It might be helpful to explain that you are being touched in a way that makes you uncomfortable and that we all have different “comfort zones” and your friend is crossing yours. Remember, you are the only person who has rights over your body and everyone else needs to get permission from you before trying to touch you. This is called asking for consent. If the other person isn’t getting the message (they keep touching you) you can talk to someone you trust about the situation (another friend, family member, teacher or a guidance counselor). Trust your feelings about the situation; it’s ok if you don’t like it, and the touching should stop.
If both the people are drunk when you have sex, is it sexual assault?
The way the law works, people cannot legally consent (give their permission for sexual activity) when they have been drinking or using drugs. This is because people sometimes make different decisions when they drink or use drugs. The law is written in this way to protect people from being taken advantage of. Getting someone else drunk or high in order to have sex with them is sexual assault. If you think this has happened to you can use the Sexual Assault Crisis Line, (204)786-8631 or 1-888-292-7565. It’s free and confidential counseling over the phone with people who are trained to help you deal with a past or current sexual assault.