This section touches on abuse, manipulation and exploitation.
Relationships can sometimes go sour and feel like hard work. When you’re in this situation it can be hard to see things clearly and may feel overwhelming to deal with.
Here’s some examples of what an unhealthy relationship may look like, and where to go for support.
Exploitation can be a major factor for an unhealthy relationship. Being exploited can happen to anyone, even the most savvy, mature person. So, it is something to NEVER feel ashamed about – because it can happen to anyone!
Knowing if you’re being exploited can be really difficult to recognise. And sometimes you need family, friends or schools, who are removed from the situation, to help you understand the exploitation that is happening around you. However, it’s a lot easier said than done...
If your partner is telling you one thing and your friend is telling you another, it can be very hard to know who to trust and listen to. And equally, if you are the friend trying to help, it can be really frustrating seeing your friend push you away. If you have a trusted friend of family member who has only ever had good intentions with you, they are most likely trying to tell you something to genuinely help you though and it’s always worth pausing to genuinely consider what they’re saying, in the same way you would hope they’d do.
Exploitation can be sexual.
It might involve any kind of intimacy in exchange for something, which isn’t always money or goods. Persuading someone to have sex/be intimate in exchange for something is NEVER okay. Anything sexual or intimate should be something you mutually choose to do, not something you trade or bargain for.
Exploitation can be physical.
If someone is giving you too much attention and not respecting your personal space, this can be exploitive. If they are spending lots of money on you, which is making you feel guilty and that the relationship is unbalanced, that can also be exploitive.
Exploitation can be emotional.
If they blame you for their big mood swings, leaving you feeling responsible for calming them down, this can be a way someone is being exploitive.
If you are worried you might be in an exploitive relationship, we recommend to take those concerns seriously. It’s so easy to “reason” yourself out of worries and insecurities, which eventually may get pushed to the side.
We’d also encourage you talk to someone about your concerns. Whether it be someone you trust or someone from a support organisation – there are plenty of people out there ready to help and getting an outside perspective can really help to get a sense of things. A lot of organisations allow you to talk anonymously, if you want to keep yourself and your partner anonymous.
All information about support available is at the bottom of this post.
In addition, here are a few things to keep an eye out for (they’re from the ThinkUKnow site, which is a great resource to check out too). They don't automatically mean anyone is being exploited, but they're worth keeping an eye out for and if you start wondering about them, it could be a good idea to chat with a trusted person and see what they make of it.
Not wanting you to hang out with your friends
Most people are interested in who their partner is friends with. If someone is trying to separate you from your friends, saying they don’t like them or that they’re not good for you, and you should hang out with them instead, that’s a bit of a warning sign – it makes you more dependent on them which isn’t a good place to be.
Loads of attention
Most of us like getting some attention, especially from someone meaningful, but sometimes it can be a bit much… Are they always there after school or college? Do they message all the time? Do they give you your own space as well? Does the "attention" sometimes feel smothering?
Lots of gifts
Gifts are great, but if they come thick and fast, or keep coming out of the blue then that’s might be a bit unusual. They don’t have to ask for anything in return there and then, but slowly an endless showering of gifts might make things unbalanced and soon you might feel you should do something in return.
Having big mood swings
Everyone has ups and downs, but here we mean bigger swings. Things like shouting and raging one minute and being apologetic and intimate the next. If you end up feeling responsible for those mood swings, or responsible for calming them down, that can be a way of controlling someone.
Even with the best of intentions promises sometimes get broken, but if these promises are being used to get you to do something and then being broken afterwards, that’s a bit of a worry too.
Again, as we've said, talking to someone can really help work these things out. If you feel uneasy about something, trust your gut and speak to someone about your concerns.
You may have also heard of the term ‘Child Sexual Exploitation’, or ‘CSE’, which, in short, means a child or young person is being exploited by being given incentives in exchange for sexual activities. Incentives can be anything from a gift, drugs, money, status or attention. It can be in person and/or online. CSE can sometimes look like:
- Being persuaded or forced to engage in sexual activities
- Being persuaded or forced to send sexually explicit images or videos of themselves
- Being persuaded or forced to have sexual conversations
It's worth reiterating, Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is NEVER okay and there is immediate support out there to help you. We recommend immediate help from these places:
NSPCC – Offer great resources about the next steps after Child Sexual Exploitation.
Childline – You can call child line 24/7 on 0800 1111.
www.thinkyouknow.org.uk - lots of resources around CSE
Stop it now! – Offer support for anyone who is concerned about their own behaviour and want to take steps in changing that.
Abuse can take many forms. It can be emotional, sexual or physical. All types of abuse are horrible to experience and shouldn’t be excused in a relationship. There are three main types of abuse that people experience;
Emotional abuse is used to control another person by making the other feel embarrassed, shamed, blamed and many more emotions.
Sexual abuse is pressuring or forcing someone into sexual activity they don’t want to do.
Physical abuse is causing physical harm to someone such as hitting, slapping or general injury to someone.
When it’s spelled out like this, it’s easy to assume it’s black and white – but it’s not always that easy. Relationships involve strong feelings so it can be difficult to come to terms with the fact someone you care for or love might also be abusing you.
But it’s important to remember it’s never your fault and it’s never something you deserve. Anyone can experience these things, any gender, any age, any sexuality.
There is lots of support available, which you can find at the bottom of this post.
A friendly reminder, an abusive relationship doesn’t have to define you either. Malin Andersson, UK reality star, is a great example of someone who escaped an abusive relationship and is now thriving. Here are just a few of her videos with helpful resources and reasons why you are NOT alone;
Where to go for more support
Once again, we want to reassure you that having issues in a relationship is completely normal and should not be something to feel embarrassed about. With a lot of relationship stuff, your partner/s are good people to talk to. However, if you’re not ready for that, here are places that might help instead;
Relate - Who support people with relationship concerns. They also have an anonymous online chat service.
The Brook – A great charity for young people who want to confidentially discuss sexual health and relationship advice.
The Mix – A site filled with information and resources on pretty much anything for young people.
Rise Above – A place to find great stories and advice about relationships and consent.
The Bish – A great guide to sex and love for everyone over 14.