By The Recovery Village |
Domestic violence can take many forms, with the most common types being physical violence, rape, stalking, and emotional or psychological abuse. In the United States, domestic violence is commonly associated with cases of sexual assault, stalking, homicide, mental illness, and suicide. The pervasiveness and complexity of domestic violence mean that anyone — regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, or social standing — can be affected by this kind of abuse at any point in their life.
Every minute, an average of 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). This equates to more than 10 million people per year. There may also be thousands of other victims of domestic violence who never report it or never get the chance to do so. Whether you suspect you are in an abusive relationship, or you know someone who is, finding the answer to your questions can help connect you to the help you need.
How to Recognize Signs of Domestic Violence
The signs associated with domestic abuse can be behavioral or physical. It’s important to be aware of both, whether you’re the one in the abusive relationship or are concerned for a friend or family member. Despite the physical and psychological effects of abuse, some victims deny they’re being abused at all, or may not realize they are being mistreated. Others are well aware, or they may suspect they’re in the beginning stages of a domestic violence situation, but they’re unsure how to escape. In addressing the signs of domestic abuse, it’s important to consider two questions:
- What are the signs of domestic abuse?
- What signs should I look for if I suspect my loved one is being abused?
What Are the Signs of Domestic Abuse?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship that’s used by one person to gain or maintain power and control over another person. It can be:
- Physical: Using physical force to harm someone
- Sexual: Physically forcing someone to perform sexual acts
- Verbal: Using words to manipulate someone’s thoughts and emotions
- Financial: Controlling and monitoring someone’s spending (money, credit cards, etc.)
Domestic violence can also involve emotional abuse.
What Signs Should I Look For?
For someone who’s never been in an abusive relationship, the signs of domestic abuse may be obvious, especially the physical signs. However, some people may not realize that they are in an abusive relationship, even if they are being physically abused unless they see the signs laid out for them.
While many of the signs of domestic violence might be limited primarily to the victim, some signs can easily be discerned by third parties, if they are aware of them.
Signs of Domestic Violence for the Victim
Some of the common “red flags” of domestic abuse include:
- Having pain intentionally inflicted by hand or object (punching, slapping, pushing, squeezing, cutting, stabbing, bludgeoning, etc.)
- Constantly fearing the person when they’re around, or feeling fearful while awaiting their arrival
- Being repeatedly humiliated, intimidated, criticized, belittled, or yelled at
- Being controlled or dominated
Being objectified (physically, sexually, etc.)
- Blaming yourself for the person’s abusive behavior toward you
- Being physically or verbally forced into doing things you don’t want to do
- Being threatened
- Being isolated and forbidden from seeing your friends and family
- Having your personal belongings confiscated, destroyed, or monitored
- Having all of your physical movements monitored
Signs of Domestic Violence to Look For
If your friend, relative or other loved one is being abused, they might:
- Make constant attempts to please their partner
- Act nervous and uneasy around the topic of their partner
- Receive frequent, harassing calls or texts from their partner while with you
- Describe their partner as possessive or jealous
- Tell you frequent stories of accidental injuries to explain cuts, bruises, and scratches
- Miss school, work, or other social obligations, with frequent excuses or no explanation at all
- Wear long sleeves in warm places or sunglasses indoors or when it’s not sunny out
- Have low self-esteem
- Show signs of depression or anxiety
- Blame themselves for a physical altercation with their partner, if they admit that it happened at all
- Make excuses for their partner and justify their abusive behavior
- Become irritable or angry when you try to reason with them about their partner
Keep in mind that it’s not always easy for people experiencing domestic violence to admit that they’re being abused, and there are many reasons these individuals choose to stay in those relationships. They may be fearful for their safety or that of their children, or they may not want the abusers to go to jail. Some people may also be hopeful that the abuse will stop one day, so they choose to stay and wait for change, often in vain. In other cases, abuse may be all the victim knows, so they may be afraid of experiencing the unknown by leaving. Regardless of the reason, it’s important for you to have patience and understanding to help your loved one effectively.
How to Get Help
If any of the signs of abuse apply to you or a loved one, now is the time to take action. It could save a life. If you’re involved in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know that it’s not your fault and that you can get out of it, even if you think you can’t. There are many resources available to help victims of domestic violence, including confidential helplines and information about shelters, that allow you to reach out with complete confidentiality.
How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship
If you are involved in an abusive relationship, you may think there’s no way out. But the dangers of staying can be far worse than those of leaving. Remaining in the toxic environment of domestic violence can put your life at risk. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), more than three women are murdered by their partners every day, on average. Staying could put others in your life at risk as well. Oftentimes, abusers take their anger out on anyone in their path, even — or especially — children. Aside from the obvious physical dangers of abuse, there are a number of potential emotional consequences to keep in mind for everyone involved, including depression.
In the midst of these risks lies hope. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. That means 20,000 people took the brave step to reach out for help and break free from abusive relationships. Taking this step can bring you closer to living free from fear and abuse.
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