stepping up >> talking to your friends >> bystanders

Have you ever heard your peers using abusive language or using curses as jokes? Have you seen your peers making fun of someone experiencing abuse? If you’re ready to step in and address dating abuse, here are some tips to get the conversation started.

Question abusive jokes and abusive language. Abusive jokes and abusive language use violent language (curses, sexual connotations) and scenarios (rape, physical violence, humiliation) to reinforce and normalize violent behavior. It can be difficult to question
abusive jokes and language; especially if your peers encourage the behavior by laughing and cracking more jokes. But, by stepping in you help raise awareness of abuse.

So what can you say when someone crack an abusive joke or uses abusive language?

  • Hey- I don’t think that’s funny. I mean what’s really funny about someone being (hurt, hit, called an abusive name, etc)?
  • I’m not sure I understand. What do you mean when you use call her/him ...?
  • Would you be laughing at that joke was about your (boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, parent)?
  • You know 1 in 10 teens in MA have experienced physical or sexual abuse from a dating partner in high school. And more have witnessed or experienced violence at home.


  • If you’re told to “lighten up” or “get over it,” you can still say, “I just don’t find it funny.” You
    can also question your friends. “What if this was about you? What if this was about some-
    one of a different race or religion?”

    Get other friends to support you. You can start a group at school to challenge abusive language and jokes. Or, you can just check in with your best friends about their views and willingness to step in to support you. It’s much easier to step in and speak out when you’ve got someone to back you up.
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