Relationships are one of the most important parts of living a good life. In 2017, a major study by Harvard University found that people with strong relationships are happier, healthier, and live for longer.

All healthy relationships need the same core things: respect, trust and good communication.

But relationships can also give people the power to hurt each other. And when it comes to romantic relationships, where feelings can be heightened and lines can become blurred, it is especially important to know how to recognise signs of abuse.

Abusive relationships fall into three main categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse — which includes bullying, humiliating or controlling someone.

Anyone can be a victim of abuse, regardless of age, gender or sexuality. A 2011 report by the NSPCC found that two thirds of girls and one third of boys have experienced emotional abuse — most often controlling behaviour.

If you think you might be in an abusive relationship, it is important to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, parent or teacher. Alternatively, contact Childline for advice and support.

Read more about sex, consent and relationships in our special report.

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  1. “If I think someone is being abused by their partner, it’s not my place to get involved.” Discuss this statement as a class.
  2. As a class, list types of behaviour that you think count as abuse in a relationship. Then sort them into the three categories listed above. Discuss which you think might be the most common, and why.
  3. Create a leaflet which explains the warning signs of abuse. Include some advice on what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse.