+Signs Of An Abusive Relationship
Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone. Noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following descriptions of abuse, reach out now. No one should live in fear of the person they love.
When people think of domestic abuse, they often focus on domestic violence. But domestic abuse occurs whenever one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under their thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.
Domestic violence and abuse do not discriminate. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. Moreover, while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused, especially verbally and emotionally. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. In addition,while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of painand your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, you can get the help you need.
SIGNS OF AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner who is constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up, chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-hate, helplessness, and desperation.
To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
- Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
- Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
- feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
- believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
- wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
- feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Does your partner:
- humiliate or yell at you?
- criticize you and put you down?
- treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
- ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
- blame you for their own abusive behavior?
- see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Does your partner:
- have a bad and unpredictable temper?
- hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
- threaten to take your children away or harm them?
- threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
- force you to have sex?
- destroy your belongings?
Does your partner:
- act excessively jealous and possessive?
- control where you go or what you do?
- keep you from seeing your friends or family?
- limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
- Constantly check up on you?
PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL ABUSE
Physical abuse is the use of physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of the family.
Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and domestic violence. Furthermore, people whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.
EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS A BIGGER PROBLEM THAN YOU THINK
Not all abusive relationships involve physical violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Many men and women suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked—even by the person being abused.
The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence—leaving you feeling that there’s no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you have nothing.
Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse.
Abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.
ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR IS THE ABUSER’S CHOICE
Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over their behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you. Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exercise their power, including:
Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as their possession.
Humiliation – An abuser will do everything they can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you’re worthless and that no one else will want you, you’re less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to destroy your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on them, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. They may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
Threats – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, andother family members. They may also threaten to commit suicide, and file false charges against you.
Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don’t obey, there will be violent consequences.
Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, or even on you and the kids, the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. They will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, their violent and abusive behavior is your fault.
THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE IN DOMESTIC ABUSE
Abuse – Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show you “who is boss.”
Guilt – After abusing you, your partner feels guilt, but not over what they’ve done. They’re more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for their abusive behavior.
Excuses – Your abuser rationalizes what they have done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
“Normal” behavior – The abuser does everything they can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. They may act as if nothing has happened, or they may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time. However, he/she has not changed, and it won’t be long before the abuse happened again.
Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. They spend a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how they’ll make you pay. Then they make a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts their plan in motion, creating a situation where they can justify abusing you.Your abuser’s apologies and loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult to leave. They may make you believe that you are the only person who can help them, that things will be different this time, and that they truly love you. However, the dangers of staying are very real.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN: YOU’RE NOT ALONE
If you’re a man in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. It happens to men from all cultures and all walks of life regardless of age, occupation, or sexual orientation. Figures suggest that as many as one in three victims of domestic violence are male. However, men are often reluctant to report abuse by women because they feel embarrassed, or they fear they won’t be believed, or worse, that police will assume that since they’re male they are the offender of the violence and not the victim.
An abusive wife or partner may hit, kick, bite, punch, spit, throw things, or destroy your possessions. To make up for any difference in strength, she may attack you while you’re asleep or otherwise catch you by surprise. She may also use a weapon, such as aknife, or strike you with an object, abuse or threaten your children.
Many people have trouble understanding why a woman who is being abused by her husband or boyfriend doesn’t simply just leave him. When the roles are reversed, and the man is the victim of the abuse, people are even more surprised. However, anyone who’s been in an abusive relationship knows that it’s never that simple. Ending a relationship, even an abusive one, is rarely easy.
SPEAK UP IF YOU SUSPECT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OR ABUSE
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or the person might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save their life.
Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.
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