Healthy relationships involve respect, trust and consideration for the other person. Sadly, not all relationships are healthy. In fact, one in 11 high school students report being physically hurt by a date.

What is Abuse?

Abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual and it might be hard to tell when it's happening, especially if you care for the person and make up excuses for abusive behaviors. Here are some examples of abuse:

  • Physical abuse: hitting, punching, pulling hair, kicking or any other form of physical violence; abuse can happen in both dating relationships and friendships
  • Emotional abuse: teasing, bullying, humiliating, threats, intimidation, putdowns and acts or words of betrayal
  • Sexual abuse: any sexual activity - from kissing to intercourse - that someone pushes, provokes or otherwise makes you participate in unwillingly

Signs of Abusive Relationships

Trust your intuition. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Important warning signs that you may be involved in an abusive relationship include when someone:

  • harms you physically in any way, including pushing, grabbing, shaking, kicking and punching
  • tries to control different aspects of your life, such as how you dress and what you say
  • frequently humiliates you or makes you feel unworthy
  • threatens to harm you, or harm his or her self, if you leave the relationship
  • twists the truth to make you feel you are to blame for your partner's actions
  • demands to know where you are at all times
  • constantly becomes jealous or angry when you want to spend time with your friends

Signs That a Friend Is Being Abused

In addition to the signs listed above, here are some signs a friend might be being abused by a partner:

  • unexplained bruises, broken bones, sprains or marks
  • excessive guilt or shame for no apparent reason
  • secrecy or withdrawal from friends and family
  • avoidance of school, work or social events with excuses that don't seem to make any sense

An abused person needs someone to hear and believe him or her. Your friend may be afraid to tell someone, may feel like it's their fault or that they don't deserve any better - but ABUSE IS NEVER DESERVED. Help your friend understand it is not his or her fault and that they need professional help.

How You Can Help Yourself

If you feel that you love someone but often feel afraid, it's time to get out of the relationship -- fast. You're worth being treated with respect, and you can get help.

First, make sure you're safe. A trusted adult or friend can help. If the person has physically attacked you, don't wait to get medical attention or call the police. Assault and rape are illegal -- even if it's done by someone you're dating.

Friends and family who love and care about you can help you break away. It's important to know that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness - it actually shows you have a lot of courage and are willing to stand up for yourself. It's also likely you will need help to break out of a cycle of abuse, especially if you still love the person who has hurt you or you feel guilty about leaving.

Where to Get Help

Ending abuse and violence in relationships is a community effort with plenty of people ready to help. Your local phone book or the internet will list crisis centers, teen help lines and abuse hotlines with professionally trained staff and resources.

TriStar Skyline Madison's behavioral health line is available 24/7. Please call (877) 342-1450.