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How to Tell if Someone You Love is in an Abusive Relationship – and What to Do About It

How to Tell if Someone You Love is in an Abusive Relationship – and What to Do About It
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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so today we wanted to do our part to spread a little information about a topic that, despite being incredibly common, too often ends up getting swept under the rug. While most of us want to help victims of domestic violence (Republican politicians notwithstanding), one of the major reasons this important issue often goes ignored is that friends and family simply may not know how to spot an abusive relationship. Even if you have doubts about your loved one’s home life, you may not know how to bring up the issue or the best way to help out.

Remember, while most domestic violence situations involve women being abused by men, it can happen to anyone, gay or straight. Don’t assume that just because your friend doesn’t fit the “typical” mold of an abuse victim that nothing is wrong.

The Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

So, first things first, how can you tell if someone is in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship? The truth is, it can be harder to tell than you think. There are the obvious signs: black eyes, mysterious bruises and injuries, unexplained or frequent absences from work, school, and community events. But many times, the signs can be much more subtle.

Are you finding it harder and harder to spend time with your loved one? Does it seem like he or she is always busy or always has other plans already set up? It could simply be that they’re going through a busy patch…and if it’s a new relationship, it could just be a side effect of wanting to constantly spend time together.

The problem is, it could also be a sign that their partner is trying to isolate them from friends and family. Making the victim socially dependent on the abuser is the first step on the path to abuse. If it’s impossible to persuade your friend or family member to spend time with you, especially if this is completely out of character, it’s good to be concerned.

Is your friend’s partner an extremely jealous person? If he or she mentions having to constantly defend against accusations of infidelity, that’s a red flag. Abusive partners are frequently extremely possessive — they may call constantly to “check up” on the victim, pick fights with potential “rivals” in social settings in order to drive them away from the victim, and demand to know exactly who the victim is with and where they are at all times.

Maybe you just get an uncomfortable feeling seeing how your loved one interacts with their partner. Do they constantly call the victim “stupid” or toss insulting remarks their way? Do they accuse the victim of being “crazy” in any argument or disagreement? Do they often explode at the slightest hint of disagreement? Do they frequently accuse your friend of lying or cheating? If so, emotional abuse is almost certainly occurring — and quite possibly physical abuse, as well.

Perhaps the most troubling sign that something is wrong is when your loved one’s personality starts to change as a result of a toxic relationship. They may completely change their style of dress, interests and activities to please their partner. They may suddenly seem depressed, distant or withdrawn — or they may seem like they’re trying too hard to seem happy and enthusiastic, as if they’re trying to prove to everyone that nothing is amiss. Often these changes start out small, and it can be hard to tell if they have anything to do with the new relationship or not.

If you notice these changes along with any of the other warning signs on this list, don’t ignore them. At the very least, your loved one is in an unhealthy, controlling relationship.

Next page: Find out how you can help…

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8:18PM PST on Nov 8, 2013

The majority of domestic violence cases against children are perpetrated by women.

9:07PM PST on Nov 7, 2013


12:29AM PST on Nov 4, 2013

Shared, thanks.

6:32PM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

"October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so today we wanted to do our part to spread a little information about a topic that, despite being incredibly common, too often ends up getting swept under the rug."

As I've stated, the inclusion of maternal child abuse as a domestic violence issue, "despite being incredibly common, too often ends up getting swept under the rug."

Now's when I expect women to "man-up" and do something about it.

6:16PM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

James W..... you bring forward your experiences in every article about abuse .....We know your story but you get sarcastic with those who may not.... THIS article IS about abusive relationships and unfortunately most equate it to women.....Why don't you post your own article and see what may be surprised at the responses and find some with your story too

5:55PM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

@ Karen H: "James W, the article isn’t about child abuse."

No, I guess you are right. It's about "domestic violence" which as I mentioned, doesn't include children as victims and mothers as perpetrators.

And back to Lisa L. here's the gov. stats.

40.5% of all child abuse is committed solely by biological mothers
17.7% of all child abuse is committed solely by biological fathers
19.3% of child abuse is committed by both the mother and the father
6.4% of child abuse is committed by the mother and some other individual
1.0% of child abuse is committed by the father and some other individual
11.9% is committed by someone other than the parents
3.1% is committed by an unknown or missing perpetrator.
Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2001

You didn't cite your sources. Perhaps they were from the same VAWA stats concluding 1 in 71 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The actual numbers are I in 6.

Like you care.

10:01PM PDT on Oct 9, 2013


8:46AM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

Thank you for sharing, no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship.

7:04PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

thanks so much for this

12:04PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013


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