We have all seen movies and TV shows, and even heard songs, that express just how much love can hurt. They all carry the same message: someone who loves you should never abuse you. A relationship is never a one-way street - healthy relationships involve respect, trust, and consideration for both people.

Sometimes, intense feelings of caring or worry can be mistaken for abuse. Maybe your boyfriend is concerned for your safety when you party with people that you don't know very well, or maybe your girlfriend worries about you getting involved with drugs.

But for example, think of a friend whose boyfriend or girlfriend is insanely jealous: it may seem like they really care about him or her. Actually, excessive jealousy and controlling behavior are not signs of affection at all. Love involves respect and trust; it doesn't mean constantly worrying about the other person cheating, or the possible end of the relationship.

Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Slapping, hitting, and kicking are forms of physical abuse that can occur in both romances and friendships.

Emotional abuse (i.e. teasing, bullying, and humiliating others) can be difficult to recognize because it does not leave any visible scars. Threats, intimidation, putdowns, and betrayal are all harmful forms of emotional abuse.

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, guy or girl. It's never right to be forced into any type of sexual experience that you don't want.

Regardless of the type of abuse, they all really, really hurt. The physical and emotional effects can devastating to every aspect of the person's mind and life - and the pain can even linger long after the abuse has taken place.

The first step in getting out of an abusive relationship is to realize that you are a human being like any other, and have the right to be treated with respect. No one deserves to be physically or emotionally harmed by another person.

Important red flags to look for in an abusive relationship include when someone:

  • harms you physically in any way, including slapping, pushing, grabbing, shaking, smacking, kicking, and punching
  • tries to control different aspects of your life, such as how you dress, who you hang out with, and what you say
  • frequently humiliates you or making you feel unworthy (for example, if your partner frequently puts you down but tells you that he or she loves you)
  • coerces or threatens to harm you, or self-harm, 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
  • makes a lot of unwanted sexual advances

When your partner says things along the lines of "If you love me, you would... ", that's another red flag. Statements like that are controlling and are used by people who are only concerned about getting what they want — not caring about what you want. Always trust your intuition - if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

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

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

A person who is being abused needs someone to listen to and believe him or her. Many people are afraid to tell someone about the abuse because they fear will bring pressure to end the relationship. People who are abused often feel that they "asked for it" or that they don't deserve any better. This is never true - no one ever deserves to be abused. Help your friend understand that they are not a bad person and it is not his or her fault. The person who is being abusive is the one who has a serious problem and needs professional help.

A friend who is being abused needs your patience, love, and understanding. They also need encouragement to get help immediately from an adult, such as a parent or guidance counselor. Most of all, they need you to listen without judging. It takes a lot of courage to admit being abused - let them know that you are offering your fullest support.

What should you do if you are suffering from any type of abuse? If you think you love someone but often feel hurt or afraid, it is time to get out of the relationship - fast. You are worth being treated with respect and you can get help.

First, make sure you are safe. A trusted adult can help. If the person has physically attacked you, don not wait to get medical attention and call the police. Assault and rape are very serious crimes - even if the perpetrator is your own partner.

Avoid the tendency to isolate yourself from your friends and family. You might feel like you have nowhere to turn, or you might be embarrassed or ashamed of what has been happening to you, but this is when you need support more than ever before. People like counselors, doctors, teachers, coaches, and friends will want to help you, so let them.

Do not rely on yourself alone to get out of the situation. Friends and family who love and care about you can help you break away. It is important to know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows that you have a lot of courage and strength and are willing to stand up for yourself.

You can find toll free numbers for crisis centers, teen help lines, and abuse hotlines in your phonebook. These organizations have professionally trained staff to listen, understand, and help you cope.

Abuse has no place in love.

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Author: Spinder (member since September 4th, 2008).