Young People & Unhealthy Relationships

Young people can experience domestic abuse but might not recognise it in those terms. Framing the behaviour as an unhealthy relationship might make it easier for them to accept that the relationship is harmful to them or that they are being harmed by a family member.


  • 94% of young people who experience abuse from an intimate partner are young women
  • 20% of teenage girls have been assaulted by a boyfriend often in their first intimate relationship
  • 20% of teenage victims of domestic abuse are pregnant, pregnancy increases the risk of domestic abuse
  • 78% have experienced controlling behaviour, threats to kill, threats to expose sexual activity as well as being isolated from family & friends
  • 76% have experienced physical abuse including pushing, slapping, broken bones and internal injuries
  • 53% have experienced harassment and stalking
  • 22% have experienced sexual assault including rape, sexual coercion
  • 70% of victims had reported to the Police on average twice
  • 27% had attended A&E twice as a result of the abuse experienced
  • 42% had made on average 5 visits to their GP
  • 67% of teenagers experience most serious domestic abuse
  • Central Bedfordshire has a higher rate of male victims aged 16-19 than the national average and is seeing an increase in domestic abuse perpetrators under the age of 20 reported to the Police and referred to MARAC

Young people's experiences

  • Young people can be subject to domestic abuse from a family member research shows that just under half of young people exposed to domestic abuse/violence are being directly harmed by a family member.
  • The abuse might be carried out by a parent or family member who is trying to coerce a young person into forced marriage - a young person might not return to education - they disappear
  • There could be honour based violence and abuse
  • A young person might have additional needs that makes them more vulnerable to abuse
  • Young people are less likely to confide in an adult or seek support or they do not engage if referred to an agency for support
  • Young people have less experience of relationships and so are unsure of what is a healthy relationship
  • A lot of abuse happens online, further isolating the young person. It can include texts, checking location, sharing intimate messages/pictures. Sexting is coercive, pressuring the young person.

If you are a young person or you are worried about a young person the following questions might help unpick the situation

  • Is your partner jealous and possessive of you?
  • Does s/he get angry when you want to spend time with your friends or demand that you spend all your time with them?
  • Does s/he check your phone, email, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter accounts?
  • Does s/he try and get you to de-friend people on Facebook, take down your photos, or stop you messaging your friends?
  • Is s/he always calling, texting or messaging you to check where you are and who you are with?
  • Does s/he tell you what to wear or how to do your hair?
  • Does s/he laugh at you or put you down in front of other people?
  • Does s/he get aggressive? Does s/he hit, shove, slap or kick you?
  • Does s/he threaten to harm you – or himself?
  • Does s/he call you names?
  • Does s/he pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to, telling you that “everyone is doing it” or that you would do it “if you really loved them”?
  • Are you frightened of your partner?
  • Have you changed your behaviour to suit your partner?
  • Is your partner afraid of you?
  • Are you afraid of someone that you live with?
  • Is anyone that you live with afraid of you?

SafeLives Young Person's DASH Risk Assessment

The Young Person's DASH Risk Assessment allows the identification of known risks in domestic abuse, including specific considerations in relation to young people. This should inform professional judgement and help to identify suitable cases to be referred to MARAC and children's social care.

Central Bedfordshire Council - Love Doesn't Have to Hurt Teen's Toolkit

Central Bedfordshire Council - Teen's Guide to Safety Planning

Central Bedfordshire Council - Unhealthy Relationships Poster