There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive.
Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation. To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.
- feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
- avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
- feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
- believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
- wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
- feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Does your partner…
- humiliate or yell at you?
- criticize you and put you down?
- treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
- ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
- blame you for his own abusive behavior?
- see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Does your partner…
- have a bad and unpredictable temper?
- hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
- threaten to take your children away or harm them?
- threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
- force you to have sex?
- destroy your belongings?
Does your partner…
- act excessively jealous and possessive?
- control where you go or what you do?
- keep you from seeing your friends or family?
- limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
- constantly check up on you?
What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic abuse occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.
Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.
Domestic violence and abuse does not discriminate. It happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused—especially verbally and emotionally, although sometimes even physically as well.
The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.
Recognizing the warning signs of domestic violence and abuse
It’s impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.
General warning signs of domestic abuse
People who are being abused may:
- Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
- Go along with everything their partner says and does.
- Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing.
- Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
- Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.
Warning signs of physical violence
People who are being physically abused may:
- Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents.”
- Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
- Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).
Warning signs of isolation
People who are being isolated by their abuser may:
- Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
- Rarely go out in public without their partner.
- Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.
The psychological warning signs of abuse
People who are being abused may:
- Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
- Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn).
- Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.
The Power and Control Wheel
Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power:
Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.
An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you’re worthless and that no one else will want you, you’re less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
In order to increase your dependence on him or her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He or she may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He or she may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.
Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don’t obey, there will be violent consequences.
Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behavior is your fault.
Myths vs. Reality of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
In our society we still adhere to myths about domestic, or intimate partner, abuse, unfairly placing responsibility for the abuse on the survivor.
Fact #1: Intimate partner violence occurs in Watauga County at about the same rate as it does everywhere else. In 2015, OASIS provided services to nearly 300 individuals in person and responded to over 1,900 crisis and information calls. As a reminder, these numbers represent only the survivors who actually contacted OASIS for support; many survivors never tell anyone.
Fact #2: Intimate partner violence knows no boundaries. People of any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age, and gender can be victims of or perpetrators of domestic violence.
Fact 3: Intimate partner abuse is about power and control. Abusers engage in a pattern of controlling and abusive behaviors to gain and keep power over his or her partner. Stress, alcohol, and drug use can make it easier for abusers to justify their abuse, but they do not cause the violence.
Fact 4: No one deserves to be abused, and the only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser.
Fact 5: There are many barriers to leaving an abusive relationship, including the possible escalation of danger. As the community works together to create supportive systems, survivors will feel safer and more empowered to seek safety.
LGBTQ Domestic Abuse & Violence
Domestic violence is a serious issue in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) relationships. Abuse in LGBTQ relationships happens for the same reasons as in heterosexual relationships: to maintain control and power over one’s partner. Domestic violence occurs in same-gender relationships at the same rate as heterosexual relationships (about 1 in 4).
As with heterosexual couples, domestic violence in the LGBTQ community is extremely underreported. Because LGBTQ individuals face a society oppressive and hostile towards them, LGBTQ persons are often afraid of revealing their sexual orientation or the nature of their relationship in order to receive help. LGBTQ communities can be small, and abuse survivors may have to plan for running into her or his abuser at meetings or community events. Conversely, survivors may not know others who are LGBTQ, meaning that leaving the relationship could result in total isolation. OASIS understands the complexity of these issues and is prepared to assist LGBTQ survivors in making decisions about safety that will best serve the survivor.
Case management services are available for any survivor of physical or sexual violence. Case Management involves meeting with a staff person to help the survivor link with services in the community. These services include housing, counseling, medical, and financial assistance referrals. Regardless of whether or not a survivor decides to leave the abusive relationship, she or he can still receive support through OASIS.
OASIS operates a 24-hour, free and confidential shelter available for women and their children who wish to escape an abusive home. Male survivors can be sheltered but not in the same location. Survivors who wish to speak with a staff person and/or learn more our shelter services can call to set up an appointment Monday through Friday. A survivor in crisis can call our toll-free crisis line number listed on the left side of this page, or find it in the contact us section of the site.
OASIS provides advocacy to survivors who wish to have a staff person accompany her or him to court proceedings. An OASIS advocate can also support survivors through the process of filing for a physical/sexual assault protective order, a 50C no-contact order, or to file criminal or civil charges.
OASIS provides on-site accompaniment and emotional support for survivors seeking medical treatment as a result of physical or sexual assault. An advocate can meet a survivor at the hospital at any time, day or night.
Child Observers of Domestic Violence
Child observers of domestic violence are often afraid that their abused parent, siblings or they themselves will be seriously hurt or killed as a result of the domestic violence. Additionally, they child observers may also be afraid to tell anyone what is happening in their home, and may feel afraid that if they acknowledge the abuse, the battering parent won’t love them anymore.
Emotions of Child Observers
Child observers are often angry with the abuser for hurting the battered parent, the siblings or them. Child observers may also be angry with the battered parent for staying, returning, or leaving at all. Also, children who witness domestic violence are often angry with themselves for not intervening to protect the battered parent, for “choosing sides” or for “causing” the domestic violence.
- Often times, children who witness domestic abuse are confused by their own emotions. They may love the abuser and feel angry toward him/her.
- Child witnesses may be confused about what causes the abuse, how to stop or avoid it and their inability to predict the behavior of the abuser. They may also be confused about whether to tell someone what happens at their house.
Child observers often feel responsible for causing the violence, not intervening, intervening ineffectively, and their participation in unhealthy coping methods and delinquent behavior (especially because many arguments include issues about children).
Children who witness domestic violence often feel helpless to stop the violence, to leave the situation permanently, to get help, to help their siblings and helpless to know what to do in general. They may feel “destined” to become abusive themselves.
Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and Adolescents
Effects of Domestic Violence on Toddlers/Preschool Children:
- More aggressive or more withdrawn than other children
- Impaired cognitive abilities
- Delays in verbal development
- Poor motor abilities
- General fearfulness, anxiety
- Stomachaches and bowel/bladder control problems
- Lack of confidence to begin new tasks
- May have the belief that abuse is his or her fault
Effects of Domestic Violence on School Age Children:
- Poor grades, or in special classes (LD)
- Failure of one or more grade levels
- Poor social skills
- Low self-esteem
- General aggressiveness
- Bullying or violent outburst of anger
- Withdrawn and dependent
- Ulcers, digestive problems
- Headaches (Not related to eyestrain or sinuses)
- Susceptible to rationalizations of abuser if they don’t see consequences for abuser and may believe abuse is OK and effective
Effects of Domestic Violence on Teenagers:
- Poor grades, failure in school, quits school
- Low self-esteem
- Refuses to bring friends home, may be withdrawn and have few friends
- Stays away from home or feels responsible for home and mother
- Violent outburst of anger, destroying property
- Headaches, ulcers, acne, bedwetting, digestive problems
- Unable to communicate feelings
- Poor judgment, irresponsible decision-making, immaturity
- Abuse of self through cutting, substance abuse, or eating disorders
- Using violence against the battering adult
- Joining in on beatings of mother
- Using violence against a girlfriend, boyfriend, sibling, or pet
For Men As Victims
OASIS provides services for men who are survivors of domestic abuse. While these crimes occur less often to men, they do occur, and OASIS believes everyone deserves safety and respect.
For more information available for male survivors, please see the “Our Services” tab under the Home drop-down menu. There is help available, and we are available to listen and provide referrals to other community agencies that can provide services as well.
Below is a link with more information about Domestic Violence and male survivors. There is help available – please call our office (828 -264-1532) or Crisis Line (828-262-5035) for more information.
Domestic violence against men: Know the signs
From the Mayo Clinic- Domestic violence against men isn’t always easy to identify, but it can be a serious threat. Know how to recognize if you’re being abused — and how to get help.