Empowering Teens Against Abusive Relationships

abusive relationships

Each year millions of young people become victims of dating violence and are subjected to physical, psychological and emotional abuse either in person, online, or through technology.

According to CDC data taken from the 2019 Youth Behavior Risk Survey, it affects 1 in 12 teens.

Who is at Risk?

Although there are many factors that increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of violence, family life plays a major role in outcomes. Teens who have seen violent and abusive relationships at home are most at risk to become victims themselves and are less likely to break free from those unhealthy relationships. As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by experiences in their relationships. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have severe consequences and short- and long-term negative effects on a developing teen. In short, parents have a responsibility to make certain that they are modeling healthy relationships at home, as “being exposed to relationship violence as a child is linked with dating violence.”

“Communicating with your date, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect area few ways to keep relationships healthy and nonviolent,” Ms. Jones said.

“Teens receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults in their lives, and the media. All too often, these examples suggest that violence in a relationship is normal, but violence is never acceptable.”

— Sue C. Jones, B.S, M.Ed., FOCUS Executive Director

Signs of Abuse

Parents, teachers, counselors, and friends should watch for these warning signs that a teen may be involved in an abusive relationship:

  • Suspicious bruises or other injuries
  • Failing grades
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that they once enjoyed
  • Excusing their dating partner’s behavior
  • Needing to respond immediately to calls or texts from their partner
  • Fearfulness around their partner

RED FLAG: Having a dating partner who is significantly (three or more years) older than the teen is a risk factor for experiencing forced sex.

Signs of an Abuser

  • Insulting their partner
  • Trying to control how their partner dresses and acts
  • Constantly texting or sending instant messages (IMs) to monitor their partner
  • Losing their temper and being unable to control their anger
  • Threatening to hurt themselves or their partner in the case of a break-up

Getting Help

If you or someone you care about is a victim of dating violence (or if you’re a perpetrator of dating violence and want help to know how to stop), there is help available! Ms. Jones recommends going to an adult you can trust. If that is not an option or if you need additional help, you can:

  • Go to
  • Call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at1-866-331-9474.
  • Text “loveis” to 22522.
  • Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at1-800-799-7233.

Did You Know?

Some states do not consider a violent dating relationship to be domestic abuse, which means those victims are unable to apply for a restraining order against their abusers. In Alabama, in order to qualify for a protection order, the abuser must be someone:

  • You live with or used to live with
  • You have a child with
  • You are married to or used to be married to
  • In your immediate family
  • In your extended family (related to the 6th degree)

FOCUS addresses adolescent risk behaviors, and has grown into one of the most recognized prevention programs in the State of Alabama. If you would like more information on FOCUS, please visit and/or contact Sue Jones, M. Ed., program director via email, or directly at (256)  453-0655.

Co-Founder | FOCUS

Sue Jones, M.Ed., graduated from the University of North Alabama and Jacksonville State University. She is Co-Founder and Executive Director of FOCUS. Sue has worked with schools in all 67 counties implementing and promoting FOCUS. Contact her at and visit for more information on FOCUS.

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