Nearly everyone can relate to staying in a bad relationship longer than they should have, trying to make it work even though your gut told you something wasn’t right, or ending a relationship but not taking creepy things like stalking or threats from an ex seriously. Whether a person has a new partner or is in a long-term relationship, it’s easy to want to ignore the warning signs that creep in or explain them away. But toxic behaviors almost always get worse over time. And what people often don’t realize, is that they can potentially get dangerous.

In my over 20 years of working in the domestic/dating violence (DV) field, one of the most common disconnects I see is that people don’t know how dangerous a toxic relationship can become. They don’t connect the dots that those crime podcasts and news specials about a young woman murdered by her boyfriend, or a missing wife with the husband as the prime suspect – are the direct end result of a toxic relationship. There are many well-documented negative impacts on people who experience DV, but the most serious potential consequence – is death. This is why it’s so important to learn the red flags for abusive behaviors in a partner, and to take them seriously.

The reality is, these behaviors usually escalate over time, and can potentially get dangerous. There’s so much research about this. For example, over 50% of murdered women (cis and trans)  are killed by an intimate partner or an ex. Those rates are even higher for women of color. Shockingly, the leading cause of death for pregnant women is not obstetric causes – it’s homicide by an intimate partner. And recent data showed that more adolescents (mostly girls) are killed by a current or former partner than anyone knew. High-profile examples of young people’s lives tragically ending at the hands of a partner or ex (such as Yeardley Love, and more recently, Gabby Petito) are far from unique, though most don’t make headlines, and DV homicides of Black, Brown, or Indigenous people rarely garner any media attention.

DV is disturbingly common. Nearly everyone has been personally impacted by it or knows someone who has – and that is particularly true if you identify as a women, trans woman, or non-binary. This makes it so important for everyone to learn the signs and know the risks. A private, easy to use resource to learn about and decide if the behaviors you’re seeing in your (or a loved one’s) relationship are abusive and possibly dangerous is the myPlan app. My team at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, led by Dr. Nancy Glass, created myPlan to help people assess their relationships, make safety decisions, and connect with resources. It’s anonymous to use, backed by research, and free.

Knowing the warning signs, trusting your gut, and taking these red flags seriously, not only in your own relationship but also in friends’ and families’ relationships, could save a life — yours or someone else’s.

You deserve to feel valued and safe, always.

Check out myPlan at, follow on IG @myPlanApp, or contact them at



Amber Clough is the director of the myPlan program and a Gender Based Violence (GBV) research program manager at Johns Hopkins University School of nursing. She has nearly 20 years of advocacy and research experience with diverse GBV survivors with both adults and adolescents, as well as in low resource and humanitarian settings such as Somalia and South Sudan. Her work includes developing and implementing an array of digital health, community, campus, and clinic-based intervention and evaluation projects to prevent and respond to intimate partner violence and its consequences globally. When not at work she spends as much time as she can enjoying the pacific northwest outdoors near her home in Portland, OR.