Recognizing an Abusive Relationship

Domestic Violence is a pattern of violent or coercive behavior used by one partner to gain and maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual, economic, and/or sexual. Check out the Power and Control Wheel to find out more about different types of abuse. Abuse comes in many forms and can affect anyone regardless of race, age, gender, income or education status, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Abuse can also be present among dating or married relationships, but also among families or other relationships where someone misuses their power to control another person.  

You might be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Calls you names, insults you or continually criticizes you
  • Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive, tries to isolate you from family or friends, monitors where you go, who you call and who you spend time with
  • Does not want you to work and/or tries to sabotage your job 
  • Controls finances or refuses to share money
  • Punishes you by withholding affection
  • Expects you to ask permission
  • Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family, or your pets
  • Humiliates you in any way

You might be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner has ever:

  • Damaged property when angry (threw objects, punched walls, kicked doors etc.)
  • Pushed, slapped, bit, kicked or choked you
  • Abandoned you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place
  • Scared you by driving recklessly
  • Used a weapon to threaten or hurt you
  • Forced you to leave your home
  • Trapped you in your home or kept you from leaving
  • Prevented you from calling police or seeking medical attention
  • Hurt your children
  • Used physical force in sexual situations

You might be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Views women as an object and believes in rigid gender roles
  • Accuses you of cheating or is jealous of your outside relationships
  • Wants you to dress in a sexual way
  • Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
  • Has forced or manipulated you into having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Held you down during sex
  • Demanded sex when you did not consent, were sick, tired or after beating you
  • Hurt you with weapons or objects during sex
  • Involved other people in sexual activity
  • Ignored your feelings regarding sex

What should I do if I'm being abused?

You have the right to be safe. It is not your fault that your partner is abusive. There is nothing you can do or have done to cause it, cure it or control it. You can, however, work on ways to prioritize your safety and get support for yourself. 

  • CALL 911: If you're scared or need immediate support, call 911 and ask the police help you.
  • Call the National DV Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to work on a Safety Plan and get support

Consider your safety as #1 priority. Your emotional and spiritual safety are just as important as your physical safety. Physical abuse is awful and no one deserves to be hurt. Emotional abuse is just as destructive - it leaves scars that cannot be seen and that take much longer to heal. The wounds inflicted by emotional abuse, attack the core of who you are and that would take a toll on anyone. If you feel that your emotional safety is in jeopardy, please consider these safety tips just as seriously. The lack of physical abuse also is not necessarily an indicator of your physical safety, as many times the abuse doesn't escalate to physical until you attempt to leave or have left the relationship. Please reach out for support! You're not alone and there is help!

  • Think about housing. Have names and numbers ready for shelters or friends you can call for possible housing.
  • Think about transportation. If you need to leave, will you drive? Take the local bus? Call for a police escort?
  • Have these things ready: Bank account numbers, checkbook, social security card, birth certificate, list of important numbers, insurance policies, marriage license, any important documentation for your children, etc.
  • Take care of your home: (if you decide to stay in the home) Change the locks, replace doors with steel doors, install a security system or camera, buy a fire ladder, and install smoke detectors.
  • Prepare with your children: Teach children to call 911 and have them identify people they can call if they become scared. Instruct them to go to safe place if there’s a domestic violence event. Give friends, family, schools, and daycares copies of protection orders or custody papers with details about who can care for your children. Talk to children about being careful on social media and have them turn off their location. Create a safety word that can be used to signify danger and to take action. 
  • Protect yourself at work: Talk to your HR department and learn more about any benefits and resources available to you that may help. Vary the route you take to and from your job, the one place your abuser often knows where to find you. Ask a security guard to walk with you to your car. Provide a copy of protection order to your employer. Request that information should not be given to your abuser if he calls, and direct them to take a message without providing any other details. Arrange to work different hours to vary your schedule.
  • Protect yourself in public: Vary the times you usually go to church, the store, bank, public events, etc. Tell someone your plans so they can expect your possible arrival. Be aware of your surroundings and if you're being followed, go to the nearest police station or call 911.