Know Your Rights

Break the Cycle believes every young person has the right to a safe and healthy relationship, but not every state defines dating violence or dating abuse in the same way. As a result, not every state provides the same protections for minors suffering from abuse.

What Legal Protections Does a Minor Have?

The law varies for minors depending on your state. Some states allow minors to file for assistance without parental involvement. Others require parents to be involved right away. And in other states, the laws are vague, leaving it open to individual judges to contact a minor's parents if they think it's in the minor's best interest. A few states still restrict access to legal protections for those in dating relationships, limiting the options for many young people. 

Visit our State Law Report Cards to learn more about the laws in your state.

How Can a Legal Service Provider Help?

A legal service provider or advocate is a trained legal professional who can discuss all the available options, help create a safety plan tailored to the young person's needs and connect them with the civil or criminal justice system. In many cases, a legal advocate can help a young survivor obtain a protection order against an abuser, as well as help ensure that the order is upheld at their home, school or place of work.

What Is a Protection Order?

Protection orders are a vital part of a survivor’s support system, as well as a powerful tool to help a young person leave an abusive relationship. A protection order (sometimes called a restraining order) is a judicial decree restricting a person’s movements and activities towards another person. Essentially, it protects the victim from coming into contact with the abuser and prevents the abuser from stalking, harassing or communicating in any form with the victim. If violated, the restricted person can face criminal penalties, including jail time.  

What About Mandatory Reporting?

Every state has laws that require certain individuals to report any suspected child abuse to government authorities. However, every state's law is different. In some states dating violence is treated the same as child abuse and in other states it's not. Contact Break the Cycle if you have questions about the law in your state.

Although the law is complicated and varies from state to state, there is help -- and we are here to offer it. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, chat with a loveisrespect peer advocate.