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dating after abuse: two young men sitting on a rock; one wears a hat and is smiling, the other has his arm around him and one hand on his shoulder

Dating After Abuse

Dating after being in an abusive relationship can be nerve-wracking and complicated. If you’ve experienced abuse, you might have more trouble connecting emotionally with potential partners, you might have a hard time trusting people or you might feel like your ideas about what is healthy/unhealthy in a relationship were warped by your abusive partner. These are all totally normal feelings to have, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself moving forward. Healing is a process. There’s no set timeline or “right” way to do it.

If you’d like to start dating again after experiencing abuse, here are some things to consider:

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Photograph of two young men, shown from their mid-torsos down, wearing casual clothes and jeans, walking and holding hands in the middle of a street

“Why Do I Love My Abuser?”

We hear from many people who are in abusive relationships, and even those who have left relationships, but say that they love their abusive partner. They wonder, “Why do I love someone who has hurt me so much?” It can feel strange, confusing and even wrong to love someone who has chosen to be abusive. 

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Safety Planning for the Holidays

This post was contributed by Emma, a loveisrespect advocate

The holidays are often a time of joy and community, but for people in abusive relationships, the holidays can be stressful and dangerous. Spending time with family and friends, dealing with financial stress and traveling can make safety planning a challenge. Family and friends of survivors may also struggle to find ways to help or be supportive. We wanted to offer a few suggestions for survivors and friends or family of survivors for making the holidays feel safer.

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Tips for Safely Reaching Out for Support

This post was written by Lauren C.

Being in a relationship should not mean you lose your right to privacy or your right to talk to whomever you like. But in an abusive relationship, an abusive person may isolate their partner from sources of support. This is often done by checking their partner’s call log and text history or denying their partner the right to a phone.

Reaching out for support when you’re in an abusive relationship is scary, especially if there are barriers to having a safe phone. If you are having trouble finding a safe way to communicate with others for support, below are some options to consider:

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The National Youth Advisory Board Launches the SPF15 Campaign

This is a post from our National Youth Advisory Board (NYAB)

The summer is heating up, and if you’re like us, you’re probably doing a lot more lounging by the pool, hanging out with your friends and enjoying time off from school. Maybe building a healthy relationship isn’t on your mind right now…but healthy relationships are important all year round!

This summer, to help keep healthy relationships a “hot” topic, the NYAB is launching the NYAB SPF15 campaign. SPF15 stands for Safe Partners and Friends 2015. Starting each Wednesday we’ll feature a different topic related to healthy dating, friendships, and self-esteem and we’ll post helpful tips, links and quotes on social media.

Check out our topics for each week:

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After a Breakup: Your Tech Safety Checklist

Technology can be pretty awesome in a lot of ways. With a smartphone or a laptop and an internet connection, you can chat, message, share pictures or videos, and stay connected with anyone, anywhere in the world. But we all know that technology can also cause problems, especially for people in abusive relationships.

We’ve talked a lot about digital abuse while in a relationship, but if your relationship has ended, your safety is still important. Follow this tech safety checklist to create a few protective barriers for yourself after a breakup:

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Building Support Systems While in an Unhealthy Relationship

Sometimes building and maintaining support systems can be tricky in a relationship. Time that you would have usually dedicated to friends is now being spent on the relationship, or maybe your partner is getting jealous when you talk or hang out with others. It’s normal if these behaviors are making you feel lonely, especially if your partner asked you to not talk about your relationship to other people.

Feeling isolated because of your relationship is unhealthy and can even be considered an abusive relationship if your partner is actively trying to keep you from communicating with others. Feeling isolated can happen at anytime during a relationship, especially if you moved in with an abusive partner. Everyone deserves to have a support system, whether their relationship is generally pretty healthy or if their relationship has become abusive. If you are in an unhealthy relationship and are wondering how to build a support system you might ask:

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On Campus: Voices Against Violence & BeVocal

Think of a time when you saw or heard of something that seemed problematic or harmful, whether or not you did something.

That was the first question a room full of people were prompted with last Tuesday at the University of Texas at Austin’s Interpersonal Violence Committee meeting, hosted by the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center’s Voices Against Violence program. The committee meets once a semester to share resources, ideas and connect on interpersonal violence prevention and response. While usually open only to UT Austin community members, they made an awesome exception for loveisrespect and we had the privilege of sitting in on the meeting.

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Relationship Math: Love = Respect

By Heather Frederick, a loveisrespect advocate

I know a lot of people don’t like math but there are a handful of rules (it’s not really math!) that can make it easier to navigate your relationships. The decision of whether to stay or leave in any relationship — abusive or not — is a very personal one. No matter what you choose, we want your emotional and physical safety to be your main priority.

Just know that if any kind of abuse is present in your relationship, it’s not likely that it will get better or go away. Abuse is about power and control and usually just gets worse and more dangerous over time. If your partner is abusive you should know that their behavior is their choice — it is never your fault or your responsibility. If you feel like you’ve put too much time into your relationship to end it now, look at it this way: if your partner doesn’t treat you the way you deserve to be treated they have to be the one to change. This brings me to our Principles of a Healthy Relationship:

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Support the Real Education For Healthy Youth Act!

By Selena Torrado
National Youth Advisory Board Member (NYAB)

If you are visiting this website, you probably have an interest in promoting healthy relationships, either for yourself, your loved ones or your community. Well good news, healthy relationship advocates — I have an opportunity for you to do so on a national scale!

Show your support for the Real Education For Healthy Youth (REHY) Act, a comprehensive sex education vision bill that would mandate a healthy relationships curriculum to be included in sex ed at high schools and universities across the United States. Read on to learn what exactly the bill would do and what you can do to help it pass in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

What Would The Real Education For Healthy Youth Act Do?

The REHY act outlines criteria for content in federally-funded sex education programs. The bill provides funding for comprehensive sexual health education programs which, among other things, include information on healthy relationships and protection from dating violence, sexual assault, bullying and harassment. All information taught would be required to be evidence based, medically accurate, age appropriate and inclusive of all students — be they lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or heterosexual.

Who Is Provided Funding Under The Real Education For Healthy Youth Act?

Federal funding would be provided to institutions teaching comprehensive sexual health education to adolescents and college students, including departments of education; nonprofit organizations; state, local, and tribal organizations; departments of health; and any institution of higher education. Priority funding is given to communities with high rates of health disparities in domestic violence, sexual assault, unintended pregnancy and STIs, ensuring that communities receive education tailored to their needs. Funding is also directed to teacher training for k-12 educators to increase effective teaching and student support.

Why Is a Healthy Relationships Curriculum as Mandated by the Real Education For Healthy Youth Act Necessary?

Too many American youth face bullying, harassment and dating violence. The statistics speak for themselves:

  • Approximately one in three young people experience physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
  • Eight out of ten LGBTQ students reported being harassed in the last year, three-fifths reported feeling unsafe and one-third skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of concerns about their safety.
  • Surveys show that eight percent of high school students have been forced to have intercourse and ten percent have experienced dating violence.

We deserve better than that. Comprehensive sex education can give us the information we need to help prevent dating violence and bullying. One study reported that students were 60 percent less likely to perpetrate forms of dating violence against a partner after being taught a safe dating curriculum. Those of us who attend LGBTQ inclusive schools are less likely to feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation (42 percent vs. 64 percent) or gender expression (28 percent vs 41 percent) and about half as likely to miss school because of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable (17 percent vs. 31 percent).

By supporting the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, you are helping reduce these statistics and set yourself and your peers up for academic and emotional success. We young people have the right to lead healthy lives. We want to make responsible decisions about our health and well being. In order to do so, we must be provided with honest, age-appropriate sexual health education.

What Steps Can You, As A Young Person, Take To Help Pass The Real Education For Healthy Youth Act?

Contact your representative and ask them to be co-sponsors or champions (if they are already co-sponsors) of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act. This is not at all as scary as it sounds! You can find your representative and their contact information at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

Write them a letter, send them a tweet or give them a phone call — and tell them what this act means to you!