Recognizing Abuse from Your Partner

Young woman is victim of domestic abuse

From the outside of a relationship, it may be obvious when one partner seems to constantly demean the other or when physical abuse is a factor. From the inside of a relationship, however, it may be harder to recognize signs.

It is important to note that abuse does not abide by gender stereotypes. While men abusing women is the most often discussed dynamic, it is possible for women to abuse men, and abuse may occur in a homosexual relationship. Regardless of the gender of the victim, abuse is not acceptable and help exists for all victims.

One of the most significant reasons it may be difficult to know if you are being abused is that abuse often occurs gradually. Physical abuse rarely starts as physical. Verbal or emotional abuse often comes first. Emotional abuse gradually wears down the victim’s sense of self-worth, making the victim feel worthless and alone. This leads the victim to believe he or she genuinely deserves the poor treatment. If this emotional abuse does progress to physical abuse, the victim has often been worn down to a point where he or she feels deserving of the abuse, as though they have left their partner no choice other than to physically hurt them.

The biggest indication that a person is in an abusive relationship is the way the possible victim feels about and around his/her partner. If a person feels constantly afraid of his/her partner, feeling as though he/she must be careful not to upset his/her partner, chances are good he/she is not in a healthy relationship. Signs that you may be the victim of an abusive relationship include:

  • Your own thoughts and feelings

    • Often feeling afraid of your partner

    • Avoidance of certain topics so as to not upset your partner

    • Feeling you cannot do anything right

    • Feeling you deserve to be hurt

    • Believing you are insane

    • Feeling numb or helpless

  • The actions of your partner

    • Yelling at, humiliating, or criticizing you

    • Treating you so badly that you’re ashamed for friends and family to observe your relationship

    • Ignoring or putting down your thoughts, feelings, or opinions

    • Blaming you for his/her abusive behavior

    • Hurting or threatening to hurt you

    • Forcing you to have sex

    • Threatening to harm himself/herself if you leave the relationship

    • Destroying your belongings

    • Acting jealous or possessive

    • Controlling what you do, where you go, or who you see

    • Isolating you from friends or family

    • Limiting your access to money, transportation, or means of communication

    • Frequently accusing you of being unfaithful

    • Preventing or discouraging you from working or attending school

    • Manipulating birth control and/or trying to force pregnancy

It is important to seek help if you believe you are in an abusive relationship. Many local organizations exist to help abuse victims. While a large percentage of these organizations focus on helping abused women, there are organizations that exist to help men suffering abuse. For more information in the United States, people of any gender may contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.


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