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Forms of Dating Abuse

Any type of abuse is not okay in a relationship. The person being harmed does not, nor ever, deserved it. This is unhealthy behaviour. Abuse is not limited to being physically harmed.  

These are some common forms of dating abuse the youth in your life might experience.


Abuse includes:

the use of words or actions to control, dominate, intimidate, degrade, or intentionally harm another person psychologically. Emotional abuse is a “red flag” warning sign of abuse. It typically happens before physical abuse. It is the most common form of abuse.

Examples of emotional abuse: Making fun/overly criticizing, threats of abuse or property destruction, spying, controlling what a person does or who they spend time together with, spreading rumours/telling secrets, etc.

the use of intentional force on another person to control their behaviour, intimidate, or punish.

Examples include: scratching, biting, pushing/shoving, grabbing the person’s clothes, preventing the person from leaving a place, strangulation, or using a weapon.

It can be one incident. It may also involve multiple, repeated, and potentially escalating incidents.

forcing any form of sexual activity on someone without their consent.

any situation where one person uses verbal or physical means to obtain sexual activity without consent. This includes pressuring someone into saying yes. This is sexual assault.

any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours, or other forms of verbal, written, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, like making sexual jokes which make people feel uncomfortable, posting offensive online pictures, name-calling based on someone’s gender or sexual orientation, or unwanted touching.

sending sexually explicit images or messages from one person to another using technology.


The law states that sexting between or regarding anyone under 18 is considered possessing and distributing child pornography. Anyone owning a device or accessing these images can be charged.

The law is concerned with the distribution of images and videos and whether one person in the relationship shares those images with other people or the images are leaked.

Any type of abuse in a relationship is not okay regardless of whether it happens once or more than once. Both parties involved need help either developing the skills for healthy relationships or coping with the impact of the abuse. 

Talk to the youth in your life about dating abuse. 

If someone is using/has used abuse against you, remember it is not your fault. It does not reflect your worth.

*Types of Emotional Abuse:

  1. Degrading: a person receives messages that they are not good enough. They are insulted, humiliated and made fun of. They may come to feel worthless.
  2. Isolating: a person is kept from their regular social interactions, and/or their family and friends. They are cut off from their support networks.
  3. Ignoring: a person is given mixed messages – welcomed in some situations and ignored in others.
  4. Terrorizing: fear is created using insults and be verbal or non-verbal threats, which intimidate a person.
  5. Corrupting: a person is encouraged to participate in unwanted, harmful, and perhaps even illegal behaviour.
  6. Exploiting: one person uses another to obtain something they want or need – whether emotionally, physically, financially, or sexually.
  7. Controlling: one person tries to dominate and control another person’s behaviour. This is often motivated by jealousy.
  8. Coercion:   one person tries to persuade or convince someone to so something by using force or threats.


Abuse can take many forms. It can occur in any type of relationship.  If you are being abused in any of your relationships, get help and talk to someone (even if the person tells/threatens you not to tell).  If you notice signs of abuse in your child/youth’s relationships, talk to them about or get them help.

A main component for many abusive relationships  is   power and  control. One person tried to have power and control over the other by using abusive behaviours. The intention behind the abusive behaviour is to maintain or obtain power and control over the other person.

There is often a lack of consideration for the other person and their boundaries.

Abuse in a relationship usually happens in a cycle. The relationship will cycle through honeymoon (fun/lovely), tension, escalation, and justification of the behaviour. Eventually, the honeymoon or nice period might disappear and the relationship may cycle between tension and escalation.

Please seek help if you need it whether you are being abused or notice you have been abusive to others (and need to learn healthy coping/ways to interact with others).

when someone harms you based on your identity or culture. This could also be using cultural practices to harm someone or not allowing someone to be involved with mainstream culture.

Some examples: using cultural stereotypes to harm/degrade someone, threatening to out someone as 2SLGBTQTIA+ to others who do not know, twisting cultural practices to harm others, and harassing someone based on cultural practices, traditions, identity, or dowry.

using money to harm someone. This could taking someone’s money or things, not paying someone back, exploiting someone for money, etc.

Some examples: not allowing someone access to their money (personal or family), making the person justify every purchase, spending someone else’s money, not allowing the other person to get a job, not paying child support, and sabotaging a person’s career.

the use of intentional force on another person to control their behaviour, intimidate, or punish. This can also be threats of violence to a person or to people/pets the person loves.

Some examples: physically harming someone, threatening physical harm (to the person or others), restraining, blocking doors, driving recklessly, and using objects to harm someone.

the use of words or actions to control, dominate, intimidate, degrade, or intentionally harm another person psychologically. Emotional abuse is a “red flag” warning sign of abuse. It typically happens before physical abuse. It is the most common form of abuse.

Some examples: gaslighting, insulting, degrading, threatening suicide (“if you leave me, I will kill myself), guilting, blaming the person for the abuse, stalking, accusing the person of being unfaithful, and giving the silent treatment.

causing the person harm or disregarding their boundaries in relation to reproductive health. 

Some examples:  tampering with birth control, removing condoms, pressuring someone into a pregnancy they do not want, pressuring someone into an abortion if they do not want it, or not pulling out when agreed to do so.

the improper exposure of someone to sexual contact, activity, or behaviour. This can include sexual assault, sexual coercion, and sexual harassment.

Some examples: forcing sexual acts, withholding sex, using sex as a weapon, criticizing a person’s performance, manipulating or demanding sex, making the person scared to say no, giving the person substances to “loosen them up,” and disclosing intimate secrets to others.

is behaviour that harms other relationships in your life. It can be isolating a person from their loved ones or turning others against the person.

Some examples: monitoring social interactions, preventing a person from seeing others, controlling how a person acts or what they wear, destroying friendships, and controlling who they can see or how long they can see them.

is harming someone with religion/belief systems or harming someone because of their religion/belief system.

Some examples: ridiculing the person’s religion, not allowing the person to practice their religion/spirituality,  using religion to justify actions, forcing a religious practice on someone, or cutting the person off from their faith.

using technology to harass  or harm someone.

Some examples: sharing intimate details/pictures, forcing the person to do things they do not want to on technology, messaging the person means things, pretending to be the person online to harm relationships, looking through phone/monitoring others you are talking to, or demanding  immediate response to repeated messages/calls throughout the day.

the use of words to be mean, cruel, and hurtful.

Some examples: ridiculing the person, manipulating the person, swearing at/name calling, spreading lies about the person, using words to threaten the person (others or pets), passive aggressiveness, and yelling/swearing at the person.

The lines between the different types of abuse can be tricky. There is often not clear separation between different types of abuse. If there is one type of abuse there are often others.

Get Help

If you or your child/youth are being abused, you can call the Child Abuse Hotline at   1-800-387-5437 (KIDS)  or the Family Abuse Info Line  310-1818.  It is available 24/7 in multiple languages.  There is also an online chat here.

For additional information about services in Alberta, click here.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

Reporting abuse is not easy. It can be very challenging. If you are the one being abused, you might have some mixed feelings about reported, because you might care for the person who is harming you. This is common.  Please remember you deserve to feel/be safe. You deserve to have healthy and fulfilling relationships.

It is scary, but  you are stronger than you know. Talk to someone. Get help.

For more information on abuse/reporting, please visit the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre here.

Further Resources

If you would like to speak to someone about mental health issues, the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line is available 24/7, offering information and referrals on any aspect of mental health.

Call toll-free: 1-877-303-2642

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