Abuse: It’s that word that scares every person. And, given how common it is, you might have to encounter it in some form or another.
Relationship abuse can manifest in many different iterations. It might be that fighting couple in the apartment next door, that girl crying silently on the subway or that guy in the emergency room, who’s barely alert after overdosing for the third time. The unfortunate thing about relationship abuse is that it’s grossly under-reported.
Oftentimes, it is extremely difficult for people to be able to help themselves. An abused person might feel too frightened to report due to a fear of being reprimanded by his or her partner. Other times, a victim might not recognize or may even normalize the abuse.
The numbers are scary. Roughly around one in four women experiences some form of domestic abuse in her lifetime. Sadly, this statistic is an underestimate, as it does not include unreported cases.
So, what are the signs or red flags of relationship abuse? Some are more obvious than others. Below is a list of a few less obvious abuse signs, which should lead you to question a partners' motives in any and all relationships:
1. He checks your phone messages constantly.
He sneaks into your email and social media accounts. He checks your webpage history. He tracks your whereabouts via specific phone apps. He has no basis, rhyme or reason for doing this, but he does it anyway.
If this is happening in your relationship, it is probably not a healthy one. If your partner does not trust you and needs to spy on your whereabouts or doings-on, you should seriously question the whole trust component of your relationship.
2. He constantly accuses you of liking other men in a sexual way.
He accuses you of being out with other guys when you are apart, even when you’re not. He constantly questions your intentions with males who have been your friends for many years.
He does not like you associating with male friends or classmates in any way, as they make him feel threatened. He thinks people in bars are giving you looks when really, it's just a glance from a passerby. These things can be the early hints of traits that appear in paranoid personality disorders.
3. Verbal slander.
He puts you down in front of other people and when you’re alone. The names are hurtful and sometimes impossible to forget. You feel ashamed of them and wonder how you could ever be with someone who calls you such things.
You make up your own excuses for these behaviors: he was upset, he had a rough day, you did something you shouldn't have done. But, these words have nothing to do with you and everything to do with him being in control of your emotions.
4. He isolates you.
You suddenly find your friends and family feeling more distant. You slowly start receiving fewer calls, emails and text messages from other people in your life.
Maybe he guilts you into spending time away from him. You do your favorite leisure activities less often because if he is not involved, he does not want you to be involved either.
5. You have to tiptoe around him.
Little things might trigger an episode of anger, aggression or moodiness. If you are worried about insignificant small things that might set him off, be careful. Are you constantly guarding your speech and no longer feel like you can be yourself?
Do you even like this new, shielded, adapted person you have become?
6. He threatens you or ruins your personal possessions.
When something angers him, he snaps in some way and something of yours gets damaged. Whether it is a silly figurine you got with a family member or a glass on the counter, something gets broken. He makes comments that make you fear for your own personal safety.
7. He states that if you loved him, you would do “X” for him.
He abuses your selfless nature to guilt and engage you in things you might not necessarily want to do. You skip an important presentation to pick him up from the airport. You ditch your friends for the 10th time to hang out with him alone, yet again. You cook him dinner instead of going out with your relatives. Etc.
This is not by any means an exhaustive list; however, it may be common to experience some of these things in your relationships. What happens now? If there is ever a time you fear for your own safety or for the safety of those around you, you should report it to the police immediately.
There are too many victims of abuse who remain victims. The longer an abusive relationship continues on, the easier it can be to get absorbed and wrapped up in the relationship. And, the harder it may be to subsequently leave.
Unfortunately, this list is one I've formulated from personal experience. Prior to being in my abusive relationship, I thought I was invincible; that those types of things just wouldn't happen to me. I was wrong. I struggled. I was an emotional wreck on my own and tried to hold it together in public.
I put on a tough face at work and with friends. I hid everything. I made excuses. I started to withdraw from important relationships. After a few months, I finally had the courage to talk to a close friend about my reality. It felt frightening and risky to get out of the situation, but I now realize how critical it was for my self-respect, well being and happiness.
If you suspect that someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, try to inquire about it in a respectful way. You will be surprised by how much emotion some people hold inside. The more we ask, the more we learn and the more we can help. Not every person may be ready to leave a toxic relationship — and that's okay. Offer your support regardless.
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