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What is abuse in relationships?

    The video is currently only available in Swedish.

    Abuse in young people’s relationships is when a young person abuses their girlfriend, boyfriend or partner or when a young person is abused by the person they are in a relationship with. It can also involve someone they see regularly, sleep with or used to go out with.

    The abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual or digital. Controlling behaviour, making accusations or being aggressive are examples of emotional abuse. The abusee can also be physical, like beating or kicking, or crossing someone’s sexual boundaries or threatening to spread private photos or films on social media. The abuse and the situations can take many different forms. They nearly always include some form of emotional abuse.

    Many people who have been abused say they feel like they’re in a “destructive/toxic relationship” where they are subjected to both minor and serious assault over a long period of time. The abuser exercises power over the other person, by making them feel intimidated, under pressure or insecure. The person being abused may feel they have to change the way they live in order to protect themselves.

    The person who uses abusive behaviour is often the same age or a few years older, but even an age difference of just a few years can affect the balance of power in a relationship; for example, if one person lives at home and goes to school while the other has their own place and is earning money.

    Abuse or just a bad relationship?

      The video is currently only available in swedish.

      Where does the line between a bad relationship and abuse go? If you fight or argue a lot does that mean you are being abusive towards each other? It’s both easy and difficult to answer that.

      There are some obvious limits; hitting someone or having sex with someone who doesn’t want to is never ok. But raising your voice or calling someone an idiot once needn’t have a negative effect on you and your relationship, it could just be part of a normal argument. But when one person raises their voice and calls the other an idiot every day or several times a week, that’s a form of emotional abuse.


      People who use abusive behaviour are usually good at hiding it. They may be the kindest person in the world when other people are around or aim the blows at a part of the body where the bruises will be hidden by clothing. Many people who are abused choose not to tell their friends or family, for different reasons, maybe because they worry what the reaction will be.


      Most people who use abusive behaviour are not good at taking responsibility for their actions, and they find something or someone else to blame. They might say they were provoked or that they’re hot-tempered and can’t control themselves. They can be manipulative and try to make it look like they’re the ones people should feel sorry for.

      – They often say they’re sorry and ask for forgiveness immediately after they have been abusive, and promise it was the last time and that things will be different. Things may get better for a while but unfortunately someone who uses abusive behaviour towards their partner often continues to do so, despite the remorse and promises.


      In most cases, but not all, a boy abuses a girl. Sometimes a girl abuses a boy, or a girl abuses a girl, or a boy abuses a boy. And it is always just as serious. Abuse exists in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and in relationships with non-binary persons.*

      *A person who is non-binary does not identify either as a girl or as a boy.

      The consequences of abuse

        Being abused by the person you are together with often has a profound effect on you, and can be really hard and difficult in many different ways. The consequences of abuse can be physical, psychological and social in nature. Sometimes you may react to the abuse immediately, such as in the case of physical abuse, but many consequences and difficulties can also emerge at a later stage.

        Your body and brain reacting to abuse is a sign that what you have experienced is not okay, and that you should take it seriously. It is important not to blame yourself for the consequences of the abuse, but to understand that it is your body and brain that are reacting to the abuse and that help is available. Remember that it is never your fault if you are a victim of abuse.

        Exposure to abuse and physical health

        Exposure to abuse can lead to various forms of physical and mental illness, and can have both short- and long-term effects. For example, being physically abused can leave you with bruises, swelling, injuries and scars on your body. The abuse can also have more long-term consequences, including lasting pain and psychosomatic symptoms, i.e. symptoms that are both physical and psychological, that can affect you for a long time. Maybe you often have headaches, digestive problems or pain in your back or other parts of your body. All of these may be consequences of being subjected to abuse, even if you have not been subjected to physical abuse or abuse against those particular parts of your body. Pain can occur in different parts of the body anyway, as a reaction to what you are being subjected to.

        It is important to seek medical care and try talking to someone if you are being subjected to abuse, or have been in the past. If it feels scary to talk to someone you know or to an adult, you can always contact us anonymously through the chat.

        Exposure to abuse and mental health problems

        Being exposed to abuse can affect your mental health. It is common to feel a lot of stress, anxiety and fear if the person you are in a relationship with uses abusive behaviour against you. It is also common to have lower self-esteem and often feel angry, sad and insecure.

        Here are some examples of how being subjected to abuse can change the way you think about yourself:

        • You think it’s your fault that the person you’re with behaves the way they do
        • You think that you deserve to be treated the way you are or that it wouldn’t happen if you were a better person or did things differently
        • You are ashamed of how the person you are dating treats you and don’t want anyone else to know about it
        • You start to believe what your boyfriend/girlfriend says, for example that you are ugly, stupid or worthless
        • You think you can’t live without your boyfriend/girlfriend. That only they can make you feel good

        Being subjected to abuse can also lead to mental health problems such as:

        • Depression
        • PTSD
        • Anxiety
        • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
        • Sleeping problems
        • Eating disorders
        • Substance abuse
        • Panic disorder/panic attacks

        Here you can read more about what panic disorder, PTSD and other mental health problems means. Remember that what you are going through is never your fault and it is important that you talk to someone. You can always contact us at

        Other consequences of exposure to abuse

        Being a victim of abuse can affect a person’s social life and emotional bonds with other people. You may feel ashamed of what you are experiencing, fear that no one will understand, or be afraid to confide in those close to you for other reasons. It can make you feel more alone and distance you from friends and family. Your boyfriend/girlfriend may also tell you not to spend time with certain people, which is never okay.

        If the person you are in a relationship with is subjecting you to abuse, it is not uncommon, for example, to:

        • Become isolated from family and friends
        • Feel that you are betraying your partner if you tell someone about the abuse. Worry that your partner will get into trouble with friends or the police
        • Have difficulty feeling trust and security in other relationships, such as with friends or other future partners
        • Have difficulty with new intimacy/sexual relationships, especially if you have been subjected to sexual abuse
        • Develop various types of behaviours to cope with the anxiety caused by the abuse, for example by using sex as a self-harming behaviour, harming oneself in other ways or by starting to sell sex or sexual images

        Being subjected to abuse by a partner can affect a person in many different ways – above we have listed some of the most common consequences, but there are many more. Regardless of how you feel you are affected, you have the right to your feelings, and you have the right to get help and feel better again.

        You can always contact us anonymously at if you want someone to talk to. We listen to you and believe in you.

        8 warning signs of a toxic relationship

          If you are in a relationship with someone and you are worried, it’s important to be vigilant for the following warning signs. Remember to always take your worries seriously and trust your gut.


          • Texts me way excessively and makes me feel like I have to answer fast.
          • Gets easily jealous.
          • Has opinions about what I wear, my make up, how I talk and move.
          • TAlks badly about my friends and my family and wants us to spend a lot of time together just the two of us.
          • Sometimes makes me feel sad, scared, ashamed, humiliated, wrong, angry, irritated or chocked.
          • Demands that I do things, like sharing my passwords, agree to different kinds of sex because I love them.
          • Switches rapidly between aggressive/cold and loving/caring.
          • Calls me childish or immature when I don’t want to agree to something or points out that I think that they behave unproperly.

          Why not just break up?

            The video is currently only available in swedish.

            It can be difficult to understand why someone stays with a partner who is treating them badly. There are many reasons why it can be difficult to leave someone who abuses you.

            For one thing, the abuse often creeps up and gets worse as time goes on. It hardly ever begins with a punch on the first date; if it did, then not many people would have carried on in the relationship. The person who is being abused can have mixed feelings. You might still love or be in love with the person abusing you, and some aspects of the relationship might still feel good and meaningful. The person using abusive behaviour can switch from being considerate and loving to being aggressive and violent. It can be hard to leave if you hope or dream that things can be good again. The thought of talking about the abuse isn’t always straightforward. Many victims are ashamed and feel guilty because the relationship hasn’t turned out the way they had expected. It’s common to worry about how people around them will react and if they will be given enough support. The abuser might threaten to make the situation worse if you leave them; they might threaten to kill themselves or seriously harm their partner. Many victims stay in the relationship to protect themselves and their family from even more abuse.

            There are other things that can make it difficult to leave, like being financially dependent on your abuser or having children together.

            We know that a supportive environment is vital for the person who wants to leave an abusive partner. Do you need support? Chat with us. We are here, we will listen and we believe you.


              Many of us have experienced the feeling of jealousy at some point. It’s not unusual to feel a little jealous in your relationship at some time or another. But if you or the person you’re with gets jealous a lot or often, in a way that takes it out on the other person, that can be a problem.

              Jealousy can be a very difficult emotion to feel, but also to be exposed to. Feeling jealous a lot can have a negative impact on one’s life and relationship. It can also affect the person you are with – if a partner is jealous all the time, you may feel that you need to change your behaviour or adjust yourself so as not to upset them. As a result, you might not be able to be true to yourself, wear what you want or hang out with whom you want.

              Jealousy is often portrayed as romantic and as a sign of love and affection. But love is very much about trusting the person you’re with, and jealousy and controlling behaviour are no signs of love. That’s why it’s important to take jealousy seriously if you find that you are very jealous of the person you are with. If you notice that your partner is often jealous over you, this can be an important warning sign to be aware of.

              Every year we have a campain called Jealousy is not romantic together with the swedish equality office (Jämställdhetsmyndigheten) and the county boards, with the aim to flag and shine light on boys abuse of girls and abuse in young adults relationships. Read more about the campaign here.

              How to know when to be worried?

              Everyone can feel a little jealous at one time or another. It’s not always something to worry about, but it’s important to reflect on why you feel that way. In general, jealousy becomes a bad thing when you act on it. For example, trying to stop someone you’re dating from hanging out with a friend because you feel jealous is not okay. It’s letting your own feelings of fear and insecurity control your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s life, and that’s a warning sign.

              Here are some examples of when jealousy leads to controlling behaviours, and needs to be addressed:

              • You want to keep track of where your partner is and who they’re with
              • You usually check their social media and keep track on them, for example on Snapchat or Zenly
              • You get stressed, anxious or angry when you don’t know what they are doing or who they are with
              • You want to influence where the person you are dating can be and who they can hang out with
              • You want to influence how the person you are with dresses and/or behaves
              • You want to influence what they do
              • You spy on your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s text messages or social media accounts
              • You want access to their password so you can see what they do and write
              • You want your boyfriend/girlfriend to unfollow people on e.g. Instagram because they make you jealous
              • You threaten your boyfriend/girlfriend with, for example, hurting them, yourself or someone close to them if they don’t do what you say

              Do you recognise yourself in the examples above?

              If you do, it is important to take responsibility for your behaviour. You probably feel that you are doing something that is not okay, and know that you are trying to control the person you are seeing in a way that isn’t healthy or right. You may also feel bad about feeling so jealous yourself, and would like to change your behaviour. Either way, having the courage to talk to someone is a good first step. We at are here for you and you can always remain anonymous.

              Do the examples above describe the person you are dating?

              It’s important to know that just because you’re together, the person you’re with doesn’t get to control you and tell you what you can and can’t do. You are still in charge of yourself and your own life. If you feel that the person you are with is often jealous and restricting you, that is a red flag that is worth paying attention to. You can read about more warning signs here or take our quiz “Am I in a good relationship?” If you want to talk to someone, you can always contact us anonymously at We listen, support and believe in you.

              Do the examples above sound a lot like someone you know?

              If you have a friend who is very jealous and controlling in their relationship, it might be a good idea to talk to them and tell them that you see what they are doing, that it is not a good behaviour and that there is help available to change it. If your friend is dating someone who is jealous and controlling, it is important to remind them that they have the right to make decisions about themselves and their life. You can also encourage them to talk to us at, or you can talk to us in the chat room if you have any questions or would like advice on how to help.


                The video is currently only available in Swedish.

                Many people who watch a lot of porn feel they are affected negatively. It is common for pornography to contain degradation of girls and women in particular, and other acts that are uncomfortable to watch. That feeling is important to take seriously. A lot of porn is misogynistic and portrays girls and women as objects that only exist for men. There is also usually no reciprocity or consent shown.

                Many people who are in a relationship with someone who watches a lot of porn find their partner’s porn viewing a problem. Porn can affect sexual fantasies and sexual behaviour. Crossing someone else’s boundaries can be inspired by porn. For example, research shows that guys who force or pressure girls to have anal sex are partialy inspired by porn. Porn can also be used as part of a sexual assault, such as forcing someone to watch a porn movie. Another form of abuse is pressuring someone to be photographed or filmed and then sharing the image/film on porn sites.

                Anyone who watches porn might think that sex is supposed to be like in the movies. Guys may think that girls like the things that women in porn movies are subjected to, such as humiliation or violence. As a guy, you may also think that you should be dominant and behave in the same way as in porn. Girls, on the other hand, may feel that they have to put up with everything that appears in porn. People who watch a lot of porn can feel that it becomes an addiction that they need more and more of. They may also need to see more degradation and violence to get aroused and lose control over their porn consumption. Porn can push the boundaries of what turns you on in your own sex life and how you treat others sexually. There is help available for those who feel they have lost control of their porn consumption.

                Porn also creates and reinforces various prejudices, such as prejudice against people who are racialized or LGBTQI+. People who consume pornography may have overly positive attitudes towards your sexuality, find you “exciting” and become fixated and fascinated by the fact that you are “different” from themselves. Being discriminated against in this way often feels wrong and humiliating. Often it can feel like being turned into an object, “a stereotype” and not get seen as a whole person with a sexuality of their own.

                Remember that it’s okay to think and feel that you don’t want the person you’re in a relationship with to watch porn.

                Boys’ violence against girls

                  Almost one in four girls in Sweden has been exposed to abuse in their relationship. Abuse in young people’s relationships can be just as severe as abuse in adult relationships, but unfortunately it is often not taken as seriously and many people – both young people and adults – don’t know how common it is.

                  Men’s violence against women starts with boys’ violence against girls

                  Abuse in young people’s relationships can take different forms, but most often it involves a boy abusing a girl. Patterns of power, violence and control often begin early and can grow if they are not stopped. This in turn can develop into what is known as men’s violence against women, which is when a man subjects his girlfriend, partner, wife or ex to some form of abuse. Men’s and boys’ violence against girls and women is a huge and serious problem, and one of the most important things that can be done to change that is to actively address boys’ violence against girls.

                  Working to prevent boys’ violence against girls can end the abuse that is already happening, while preventing future abuse and the serious, sometimes lethal, consequences it can lead to.

                  Here you can read more about the different types of abuse and their consequences.

                  How can we prevent boys’ violence against girls and abuse in young people’s relationships?

                  Working against boys’ violence against girls and abuse in young people’s relationships needs to be properly funded and prioritised – we need stronger efforts on many fronts if we are to achieve a world where no young person is abused in their relationship. Among other things, we need to:

                  • Strengthen support and assistance to young people who are abused in their relationship. The national helpline that we offer on shows that the need for support and help, but also for preventive measures, is tremendous.
                  • Raise awareness about abuse in young people’s relationships. Although abuse in young people’s relationships is common, many people, both teenagers and adults, do not know what different types of abuse can look like and what warning signs to look out for. By gaining knowledge about boys’ violence against girls and abuse in young people’s relationships, we can better understand, intervene and prevent abuse.
                  • We need to prosecute young perpetrators. By prosecuting young people who commit criminal abuse, it is possible to show that abuse is unacceptable, and at the same time to put in place treatment interventions that can put an end to the abuse.

                  Read more about key measures in our report here.

                  Why are we talking specifically about “boys’ violence against girls and abuse in young people’s relationships”?

                  At, we talk a lot about boys’ violence against girls, but also about abuse in young people’s relationships. The reason we talk about it in this way is because both in our own work with young people and in national and global statistics, we see that abuse in intimate relationships usually means that a boy or a man abuses a girl or a woman. So on a more structural level, this is the most common form of abuse in relationships. Many reports also show that the abuse to which girls and women are subjected is often more severe, it happens repeatedly, it is more sexualised and it has more serious consequences.

                  We think it is important to shed light on the structure behind the abuse that mainly affects girls and women around the world. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t take other forms, or that other abuse is okay. Girls can use abusive behaviour against boys, and there are also cases of abuse in same-sex and queer relationships. Violence can take different forms, but no matter how it manifests itself or who the perpetrator is, it is never okay.

                  A large part of our work involves offering help and support to young people who are victims of abuse, who are perpetrators themselves or who are friends of a victim/perpetrator. We believe that everyone should have access to support and help, regardless of gender or gender identity. Our chat room here at is open to anyone who needs help and support, and we also have a clinic in Stockholm where we can offer trauma treatment. We strive for social equality in which everyone has the right to a life without abuse!