Abusive relationships are more than just relationships where physical violence occurs. Often the signs are more subtle and many victims of abuse shrug off the characteristics of an abusive relationship simply to "that's just the way he or she is." Abuse can come from men or women and exists in all types of relationships regardless of sexual orientation. Abuse can also occur in different ways, so learning the signs can end up being your life-line.
Calling someone names is an attempt to lower self-esteem as is the intent of abusive techniques. Verbal remarks such as "idiot," "ugly," "stupid" and "crybaby," among others, hurt as much, if not more, than physical blows. Words wound the heart, not the body.
Going through a person's purse, wallet, files, computer hard-drive and cell phone history; sending someone with you as you go out for the evening just to keep an eye on you; and showing up when you are out with your friends--all are examples of spying, jealousy and distrust. When your privacy is continually invaded and your computer habits tracked or phone calls questioned, you are being abused.
Control Over Your Time
Someone requiring you to be home right after work or someone who insists on picking you up at work and dropping you off are not signs of caring, but rather signs of control and abuse. When the abuser wants to know where you are every minute of the day and requires frequent check-ins, it is because they believe their control over you may be threatened.
Cutting you off from your friends and family is the abuser's way of cutting you off from your support system. Tearing someone away from support weakens a person. This behavior is abusive because it makes the abuser the only source of social support, leaving less room for the victim to seek help.
Taking your paycheck and not allowing money for necessities is a common way of keeping the victim close to the abuser. If you do not have enough money for food and clothing, you will not have enough money to leave. There are ways to get away without money, and many times once you leave and take your cash with you, the abuser also leaves and moves onto the next victim.
Forcing someone to have sex when they do not want it, even if it's your spouse, is rape. In most states, spousal rape is a felony. Forced sex is not love and can leave deep emotional scars in addition to physical harm.
Threats of violence toward you, your children, friends or family members, is abuse. The abuser seeks to intimidate you into submission by playing upon your fear. Fear is a terrific motivator and abusers know it well. It is the most often used weapon in an abusive relationship.
Accusing you of flirting, of being interested in someone else, of being out with someone else--frequently these are behaviors projected onto you that the abuser is, or would be willing to engage in, themselves. Most commonly accusations are an excuse to begin physical violence.
Forced Drug Use
Engaging in illegal behavior of drug use is an easy way to force an abuse victim into submission. While under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the victim is not able to fight back or control what it happening. This abuse technique may be followed by forced sex with the abuser or with multiple partners of the abuser's choosing.
The most common form of abuse is, of course, physical violence. Every day emergency rooms are filled with victims of domestic violence. ER personnel always hope to finally reach the victims and help them escape their violent situations. One of the classic signs of physical abuse, however, often isn't visible to anyone but the victim when they are standing naked in front of the mirror. An extremely clever abuser will not strike their victim in an area that is not covered by clothing. If no one ever questions, "where did you get that," how will anyone ever know the truth of the relationship? No questioning means no support and no one understanding what is happening.
What It All Comes Down to....
Abusive relationships are more common than you may think. One in four relationships, carries some form of abuse. It takes strength and support from loved ones and friends to stand up for yourself and say "no more." For further information on abusive relationships and domestic violence, please contact your local domestic violence shelter, or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). This number will lead you to immediate help in your area. Help is available in either English or Spanish and 170 other languages through interpreters.