Teen Abuse: Common Signs and Where to Find Help

Teen abuse is a serious issue that impacts all genders. However, female teens between 16–19 are four times more likely to be sexual violence victims. Therefore, it’s essential to know the warning signs so that you can provide the help your teen needs. Teen abuse can happen at any time. Teens can experience abuse from a caregiver, friend, peer, or stranger. Knowing the different forms of teen abuse and its signs is vital to preventing and assisting after abuse.

Key takeaways:
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    Teen abuse can happen to all genders.
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    Teen dating violence, parental abuse, and bullying are common forms of teen abuse.
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    Counseling is helpful for abused teens.
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    Prevention is a powerful tool for teen abuse.

Types of teen abuse

Teen abuse can take on multiple forms. Typical forms of teen abuse include teen dating violence, abuse or neglect from a parent or caregiver, and bullying:

  • Teen dating violence. Teen dating violence happens when a teen experiences intimate partner violence. The abuse may be expressed as physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 12 high school teens experienced physical and sexual dating violence.
  • Parental abuse. Parental abuse might occur when a parent or caregiver uses physical discipline that causes internal or external damage to a teen's body. It can also take the form of blaming the teen for the parent’s problems. The parent may also be highly demanding or neglect the teen’s needs.
  • Bullying. Bullying is abuse expressed through unwanted aggressive behavior. Bullying may happen to any teen during school hours or outside the school grounds.

Signs your teen is being abused

Different forms of abuse may have varying warning signs. But some symptoms may overlap.

Abuse by a violent partner

Signs your teen may be experiencing teen dating violence from their partner include:

  • Pressure to engage in sexual activities before they are ready.
  • The partner sexually assaults them.
  • Your teen is hit or physically harmed.
  • The partner isolates them from family and friends.
  • The partner threatens or controls actions.
  • Forces your teen to drink alcohol or use drugs.
  • The partner refuses to practice safe sex to prevent STIs.

It is essential to understand not all teens will experience the same warning signs for teen dating violence. However, the signs listed above are common when a teen is experiencing intimate partner abuse.

Abuse by a violent parent

The next group of warning signs will cover parental abuse. This will not be an exhaustive list, but it will provide critical signs of parental abuse.

  • Trouble sleeping or having nightmares.
  • School absences.
  • Defiant behavior toward others.
  • Depression, anxiety, and lack of self-confidence.
  • Self-harming behaviors cutting.
  • Loss of interest in friends or activities.
  • Suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts.

Abuse at school

The signs that your teen is being bullied can overlap with the warning signs of parental abuse and teen dating violence. But here are signs you want to notice when your teen is being bullied.

  • Not wanting to go to school or complete schoolwork.
  • Damaged or lost books, clothing, or personal items.
  • Headaches or stomach aches.
  • Coming home hungry because they skipped lunch.
  • Decreased grades.
  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Abuse online

Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t happen just in school or in the community. It is now occurring online. Cyberbullying happens when a teen is embarrassed, harassed, threatened, or targeted by someone through technology.

Many of the warning signs of cyberbullying overlap with bullying. But there are a few distinctive differences.

  • Teens are upset during or after using their phones or the internet.
  • Isolating themselves in their bedroom.
  • Being nervous when receiving an email, message, or text.

How to help your abused teen

Learning that your teen is being abused is a parent’s worst nightmare. But you can be there to help.

If your teen is being abused, you should speak with them. Communication is essential when abuse is involved.

Ensure your teen understands they are not in trouble because of what is happening. You want them to feel comfortable and able to open up.

Depending on the type of abuse your teen is experiencing, you may want to take them to the doctor for a physical exam and contact the police. You may also want to contact a mental health professional for counseling sessions.

How to prevent teen abuse

There are many ways to prevent teen abuse from happening:

  • Teach your teen about healthy relationships.
  • Be comforting and supportive.
  • Inform the school of the abuse.
  • Teach your teen how to stay safe when using their phone and the internet.

Healing after teen abuse

The impact of teen abuse can linger. But if you and your teen implement the helpful tips described above, healing can occur.

To learn more information about teen abuse, visit the Childhelpline website. The organization offers support and resources for abused teens. It can help you and your teen handle and heal from the issues of teen abuse.


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