The signs of domestic violence are not always as easy to spot as some people might think. Even those who are in abusive relationships may not realize that they are being hurt and manipulated. It’s important to remember that domestic violence encompasses more than just physical violence. This type of abuse is about control of another person, but not just of their body. Abusers also want to control the other person’s mind and emotions.

Typically, physical abuse doesn’t come first. It might begin with insults or put downs that happen on occasion. The abuser might attempt to keep you from visiting your family or friends. When you have been cut off from others, the physical abuse will often start. Keep in mind that this is just the typical pattern. It doesn’t have to start this way. It might start with physical violence. All cases are different.

Look for the Signs of Abuse

If you have any fear of your partner, this is a major sign that you are in an abusive relationship. If you worry about things that you say or do, or you know that you can’t talk about certain subjects or say no to sex, it’s an abusive relationship.

Threatening, Controlling, and Bullying

Many abusers use a range of tactics against the abused, often trying to make them feel like the abuse is somehow their fault. They might accuse you of having an affair or blame you for the abuse that occurs. They may criticize you and how you look or they could threaten to kill you or someone close to you. The abuser might even threaten or harm a pet.

Abusive people will often yell at you to make themselves feel in control and to make you feel small. They might also throw things when they are upset or even punch walls. These people aren’t “passionate”; they are dangerous.

Financial Control

Another form of abuse that often occurs is trying to gain financial control over the person being abused. In some cases, they might even steal money from you or your friends. Abusers will often not let you have money for basic needs. They may withhold cash and credit cards, put you on an allowance, and require that you explain how and where you are spending each bit of money. These are all sure signs of domestic violence.

Isolation

Abusers want control. They don’t want you to be able to reach out to others for help. They don’t want you to let anyone know what’s happening to you. The abuser will often keep a close eye on where you go and who you are with, even when you are just going to work—if you’re allowed to work.

Often, they will tell you that you need to ask permission to see family or friends. They may deny your requests to see them, and they could even monitor your phone and tell you who you can and can’t talk to. In some cases, they might not even allow you to go to medical appointments, the bank, etc. They try to control every move that you make.

Another tactic that abusers will sometimes use is to embarrass you when you are with other people. This makes many people no longer want to be around others, further isolating them.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is what most people think about with domestic violence. It can and does happen with disturbing frequency. Your partner may attack you with their hands, feet, teeth, and other body parts. They might bite you, pull your hair, etc. Often, they will try to keep the injuries in places that aren’t visible because they don’t want others to know what they are doing.

However, that’s not always the case. They may break bones, injure your face, etc. They could even attack you with weapons. Each year, around 4,000 victims of domestic violence are killed.

Physical abuse isn’t just hitting and kicking, though. If you are abandoned in a place that you don’t know, it’s abuse. If they lock you in or out of your house or a vehicle, it’s abuse. Some abusers will even stop their partners from eating and sleeping, which wears them down further and causes a wide range of other issues.

Sexual Abuse

Domestic violence often takes the form of sexual abuse, as well. If your partner forces you to have sex, it’s abuse and rape. If they force you to dress sexually, or if they make you feel like you owe them sex, it’s abuse. If they refuse to use condoms or other birth control, it’s considered abuse, as well. In some cases, abusers have tried to intentionally give their partner an STD.

Common Signs Someone You Know Is Being Abused

You might have a loved one and are worried they might be being abused. You can look for some potential signs that this may be the case. If they have injuries and come up with odd excuses, it could be an issue of domestic violence. They might also wear clothing that doesn’t match the season. For example, they might wear a sweater to cover bruises or scratches on their arms or other signs of domestic violence.

If they have to constantly check in with their partner, don’t have money of their own, or have personality changes, it could be signs of abuse. Other signs might include not making it to social outings, work, or school. They might be worried about constantly pleasing their partner to the point where it’s their main focus.

If you notice these signs, try to broach the subject carefully, and be willing to listen and help. Often, it’s embarrassing and uncomfortable for the person being abused to talk about. Other times, they might still not be willing to admit they are in an abusive relationship. They might even try to defend their abuser.

What Should You Do?

If you are being abused, you don’t have to live in that situation. You deserve better, and you deserve to be safe. If you are in an emergency, you should call 911 and get the police involved.

If you aren’t currently in danger, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you aren’t able to contact them in your current living situation, call them from a friend’s house or anywhere else that you feel safe.

Talk with family and friends and have a plan to get out of your situation. You might even want to have a packed bag that you keep at a friend’s house. Set up codewords with family, friends, coworkers, and kids to let them know if you are in danger. Create a plan when signs of domestic violence arise and be willing to execute it if you have to get out quickly.