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.
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