The signs of domestic violence aren’t always as obvious as you’d think. This is because it’s not just about hurting someone, it’s also about controlling their mind and emotions. All of this happens slowly and culminates with you being cut off from your friends and family, which is when the violence itself starts.
Signs of Abuse
You should never be afraid of your partner. You shouldn’t be afraid to say what you think, bring up certain topics, or say no to sex. These are just a few of the issues surrounding domestic violence. Some of the other ways you’ll know you’re a victim of domestic violence include:
- Your partner criticizes, bullies, threatens, or controls you.
They may accuse you of having an affair or blame you for the abuse. They’ll yell at and belittle you. Oftentimes they’ll tell you how to dress and look. When they get angry, they may throw things or punch a wall. In extreme cases they may threaten to kill you or someone who you’re close to.
- Your partner controls the money.
They’ll keep cash and credit cards from you, only giving you an allowance then making you account for all the money. This makes it so you won’t have money for your basic needs (e.g. food, clothing) and they may also prevent you from working whatever job you want.
- Your partner cuts you off from your family and friends.
They’ll keep close tabs on where you go and who you’re with, making you ask permission before going anywhere. They may even embarrass you in front of people, so you’ll want to avoid them.
- Your partner physically abuses you.
There are many different forms of physical abuse. It can range from preventing you from eating, sleeping, or getting the medical care you need to attack you with weapons. They may abandon you in a place you don’t know or lock you in or out of your home. Additionally, they may kick, punch, push, bite, or pull your hair.
- Your partner sexually abuses you.
This can be them forcing you to dress in a provocative way. It can also mean forcing you to have sex by making you feel like you owe it to them. When it comes to sex your perpetrator may try to give you an STD or refuse to use birth control or condoms.
Signs Someone You Know Is in a Domestic Violence Situation
If you feel like a friend is a victim of domestic violence, there are some things you should be on the lookout for including:
- Making excuses for their injuries
- Someone who’s always been confident suddenly having low self-esteem
- Having to always check in with their partner
- Never having any money
- Being overly worried about making their partner happy
- Missing school, work, or social outings without a clear reason why
- Wearing clothes that are inappropriate for the season (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer to cover their bruises)
What to Do if You’re Being Abused
First, it’s important to know that the abuse isn’t your fault. You deserve better so don’t take the blame. Sometimes this is challenging because your partner may try to blame you for the violence. They also typically won’t exhibit abusive behavior with anyone else because they’re too concerned with outward appearances. This may further make you believe that you’re the reason for the violence.
It’s also important to speak with your doctor or therapist so you aren’t misdiagnosed. If they don’t know you’re being abused they may assume you’re depressed, anxious, or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This can make you feel even more responsible.
Secondly, if you act out verbally or physically against your abuser you shouldn’t worry that you’re abusive. You’re acting in self-defense even though your abuser may try to say you’re the abusive one. If you’re struggling to believe this, step back and look at the larger picture. Remember, an abuser is the one who routinely uses abusive behavior.
Creating an Emergency Escape Plan
Deciding to leave can be a difficult decision. You may want to talk to someone from a women’s shelter or domestic violence hotline but make sure you do so from the safety of a friend’s house. You probably don’t want to make the call from your own cell phone as your abuser could be using technology to monitor and track you.
This is also true of your home computer. This is why you should always clear your viewing history. It’s also a good idea to routinely change your email password.
When you’re ready to leave your abuser make sure you establish an emergency escape plan which includes:
- Pack an emergency bag with extra clothes and a set of car keys. Put this bag somewhere safe. Make sure you also have important personal papers, money, and prescription medications where you can grab them quickly.
- Know where you’ll go when you leave. You should also know exactly how you’ll get there.
What to do When You Think Someone is Being Abused
Although you may have your doubts, you should still say something. If you’re thinking something, there’s usually a reason for it. When you talk to the person you should:
- Ask them if anything is wrong.
- Specifically talk about what’s concerning you.
- Carefully listen to what they have to say.
- Tell the person you’re there for them and that your conversations will be kept private.
- Offer the person help.
- Support the choices the person makes.
Break the Cycle
The longer you stay in an abusive relationship the more of a physical and emotional toll it’ll take on you. You could grow depressed and anxious or start to doubt your ability to take care of yourself. You may also feel helpless or paralyzed. So, if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, get help today.