Young people experience the highest rates of domestic abuse of any age group. Regardless of whether they can access adult support, evidence suggests that young people need a different response from adults. Young people experience a complex transition from childhood to adulthood, which impacts behaviour and decision-making. It may impact the way that they respond to the abuse as well as the way that they engage with services. As a result, young people who experience domestic abuse do so at a particularly vulnerable point in their lives.

This webpage will provide information on healthy teenage relationships, warning signs of abuse to look out for and the kind of help and assistance available.

Warning signs for young people

Young people in abusive relationships often experience the abusive partner;

  • Constantly checking their phone and/or emails without permission.
  • Putting them down in front of others or to their face.
  • Trying to stop them seeing family and friends.
  • Mood swings and explosive temper.
  • Possessiveness and extreme jealousy.
  • Making false accusations.
  • Asking them to take part in ‘sexting’.
  • Making them have sex without consent.
  • Making them watch pornography or filming them having sex.
  • Telling them what they can/can’t wear, and where they can/can’t go.
  • Physically hurting them in any way.
  • Saying they will hurt themselves/someone else if they don’t do something.

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Statutory definition of domestic abuse factsheet from GOV.UK

  • The definition of domestic abuse is in two parts. The first part deals with the relationship between the abuser and the abused. The second part defines what constitutes abusive behaviour.
  • GOV.UK has set out two criteria governing the relationship between the abuser and the abused. The first criterion states that both the person who is carrying out the behaviour and the person to whom the behaviour is directed must be aged 16 or over. Abusive behaviour directed at a person under 16 would be dealt with as child abuse rather than domestic abuse. The second criterion states that both persons must be “personally connected”.
  • The definition ensures that different types of relationships are captured, including ex-partners and family members.
  • GOV.UK have listed broad categories which capture a range of different abusive behaviours, including physical, emotional and economic abuse. GOV.UK have specifically included economic abuse to demonstrate that it is a distinct type of abuse.
  • The Act also recognises that domestic abuse can impact a child who sees, hears, or experiences the effects of the abuse and it treats such children as victims of domestic abuse in their own right where they are related to or under parental responsibility of either the abuser or the abused.
  • GOV.UK have issued statutory guidance to provide further details on the different types of abuse and abusive behaviours that sit within the categories highlighted above, as well as the impact of domestic abuse on children.

You can read the full policy paper at – Statutory definition of domestic abuse factsheet – GOV.UK (

Becoming a Young Person

Adolescence is the transition from childhood to adulthood.

During this period both physical and psychological developmental changes take place. The age bracket for these changes can range from 11 to 20 years.

The nature of this transition means that it impacts the social, emotional, psychological, physical and biological development of the young person.

These challenges can occur in all areas of a young person’s life. If they’re not dealt with successfully, it can increase vulnerability and reduce emotional resilience

Young People At Risk of Domestic Abuse

Heterosexual and young people who identify as LGBTQ can experience similar patterns of Domestic Abuse, there are however some specific issues that are unique to LGBTQ victims.

  • Threats to disclose their sexual orientation, or ‘OUT’ them to family, friends or work colleagues.
  • Increased isolation because of factors such as lack of family support.
  • Limiting or controlling access to spaces or networks relevant to the LGBTQ community.
  • Poor experience or believing there are no services available.
  • Withholding medication or preventing treatment is needed to express the victim’s gender identity.
  • Targeting areas of their body where they may have had surgery during physical assaults.
  • Refusing to use the correct pronouns preferred by the victim.
  • Telling others about their Trans background/identity.

(reference: Crime Survey for England and Wales: year ending March 2018 Stats): The % of gay men (5.1%) or bisexual men (5.6%) who experienced abuse from a partner in 2017/2018 is double the number for heterosexual men (2.2%)

Do you know what Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA) is?

Child-to-parent abuse is also commonly known as adolescent-to-parent violence and abuse. It’s increasingly recognised as a form of domestic abuse. SafeLives data has shown that young people accessing services who cause harm to family members can do so through the same broad categories of behaviour seen in other forms of domestic abuse: physical violence was the most prevalent, with 57% of young people causing physical harm and nearly a quarter (24%) demonstrated jealous and controlling behaviour.

As mentioned previously in the module, this term can apply to young people causing harm who are aged 13 years or over. First and foremost, it is a child protection matter. If you’re concerned about any child aged under 18 who’s harming their parent, then you must follow the local safeguarding children partnership’s effective support guidance.

What Advice to Give to a Young Person?

If they’re aged 18 years or under, tell them if they’re concerned about their relationships, they can call ChildLine: 0800 1111

Or they can call the confidential local domestic helpline on 0800 69 49 999 (any gender). Or the National Domestic Abuse helpline can help girls worried about domestic abuse in their intimate relationships, their number is 0800 2000 247.

Galop National, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 999 5428 or

Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) – 0808 801 0456 or 0808 808 0464

If it’s an emergency, call the police at 999. Or if they can’t speak, listen to the questions and tap or cough to answer. Press 55 to signal an emergency.

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About this article

October 16, 2023

Michael Wallis


Children and young people