In The Know Zone

leaving an abusive relationship

Escaping an abusive relationship

An abusive dating relationship is like quicksand—easy to get into, but very difficult to escape. The abuser has systematically dismantled the two things you need most to break free—a sense of self-worth and a social support structure.

The resulting sense of alienation and worthlessness is made worse by embarrassment. One of the abuser’s most vicious lies is that the shortcomings in the relationship are entirely your fault. If you believe the lie, you will imagine yourself approaching friends and family as a failure in what you have been treating as the most important relationship in your life. This will be particularly painful if you have persisted in the relationship against their advice. Nevertheless, your best course will be to swallow your pride and seek support from family and friends.

An alternative to approaching friends and family members is to call upon the support of another trusted adult—a relative, teacher or counselor, perhaps. Since finding such a supporter under the pressure of a dating abuse situation could be difficult. You should establish such a relationship in advance.

If you run the risk of encountering the abuser at school, avoid deserted areas, travel to and from school with friends. Screen your phone calls.

If your abuser has been violent toward you, or you believe he could be, stay with a friend or go to a women’s shelter. You should also inform police of your concerns and seek a restraining order.

Whether you stay at home or elsewhere, make sure your parents know the situation, particularly if he is in the habit of visiting your home.

If you feel you are in danger and have no one to turn to, contact a local battered women’s program, or call one of several national hotlines dedicated to helping teens in trouble:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: Manned 24/7. 1-800-799-7233
  • National Center for Victims of Crime Helpline: 1-800-394-2255 Support in English, Spanish and 180 other languages
  • Girls and Boys Town Hotline: Manned 24/7. 1-800-448-3000 (TDD 1-800-448-1833)
In The Know: At Risk Pamphlet/ DVD Package
"In The Know: At Risk-Dating Violence, Love Doesn't Have To Be This Way" Pamphlet
In The Know: At Risk DVD Package