Early Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

If you think your spouse or partner is abusive, or you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive relationship, review the red flags and other information on domestic abuse and violence covered in this article.

Not all abuse involves physical violence or threat; emotional abuse can also leave deep and lasting scars.

Recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of spousal abuse is the first step, but taking action is the most important step in breaking free.

Feeling uncomfortable or being afraid in your relationship is the number 1 red flag that your relationship is not healthy. Estimates are that 1 out of 4 women will experience an abusive relationship and there are often many early, detectible warning signs. Domestic Violence is about Power and Control. Controlling behaviors often are the first indicators – anything they ask or demand you do to change who you are, your appearance or behavior seem like simple, compromise-type relationship concessions but are often veiled warning signs that this relationship may turn abusive. 

23 Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship 
(interpreted from the list at www.health-first.org)

Physical or sexual violence may occur without warning. Sometimes, however, there may be signs or "red flags" that serve as warnings that the relationship is abusive. The following are examples of a person's behavior or personality that may be that warning. If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you may be at risk – please call 937-498-7261 to speak with a domestic violence advocate.

  • Does your partner tease you in a hurtful way & play it off as a “joke” or tell you you’re being too sensitive?
  • Does your partner call you names such as "stupid" or "bitch"?
  • Does your partner act jealous of your friends, family, or co-workers or coerce you into avoiding or not spending time with them?
  • Does your partner get angry about or make you change the clothes & shoes you wear, how you style your hair, or whether or not you wear makeup & how much?
  • Does your partner check-up on you by repeatedly calling, driving by, or getting someone else to?
  • Has your partner gone places with you or sent someone just to "keep an eye on you"?
  • Does your partner insist on knowing who you talk with on the phone, check your call log or phone bill?
  • Does your partner blame you for his problems or his bad mood?
  • Does your partner get angry so easily that you feel like you're "walking on eggshells"?
  • Does your partner hit walls, drive dangerously, or do other things to scare you?
  • Does your partner often drink or use drugs?
  • Does your partner insist that you drink or use drugs with him?
  • Have you lost friends or no longer see some of your family because of your partner?
  • Does your partner accuse you of being interested in someone else or cheating on them?
  • Does your partner read your e/mail, check your computer history, go through your purse, or other personal papers?
  • Does your partner keep money from you, keep you in debt, or have "money secrets?"
  • Has your partner kept you from getting a job, or caused you to lose a job?
  • Has your partner sold your car, made you give up your license, or not repaired your car?
  • Does your partner threaten to hurt you, your children, family, friends, or pets?
  • Does your partner force you to have sex when you do not want to?
  • Does your partner force you to have sex in ways that you do not want to?
  • Does your partner threaten to kill you or themselves if you leave?
  • Is your partner like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," acting one way in front of other people and another way when you are alone?

Our experience tells us that even if you only said yes to one or two, that these behaviors tend to multiply and get worse over time. Please call us to see if the situation you’re in is safe and what you can do to make it more so 937-498-7261.

Is Someone You Know Being Abused?

There is no way to tell for sure if someone is experiencing domestic violence. Those who are battered, and those who abuse, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, economic classes and personality types. Victims are not always passive with low self-esteem, and batterers are not always violent or hateful to their partner in front of others. Most people experiencing relationship violence do not tell others what goes on at home. So how do you tell? Look for the signs:

Injuries and Excuses:

In some cases, bruises and injuries may occur frequently and be in obvious places. When this happens, the intent of the batterer is to keep the victim isolated and trapped at home. When black eyes and other bruising is a result of domestic violence, the person being battered may be forced to call in sick to work, or face the embarrassment and excuses of how the injuries occurred. When there are frequent injuries seen by others, the victim may talk about being clumsy, or have elaborate stories of how the injuries occurred. In other cases, bruises and other outward injuries may be inflicted in places where the injuries won't show. This too is a tactic used by an abuser to keep a victim from reaching out or from having the violence exposed.

Absences from Work or School:

When severe beatings or other trauma related to violence occurs, the victim may take time off from their normal schedule. If you see this happening, or the person is frequently late, this could be a sign of something (such as relationship violence) occurring.

Low Self-Esteem:

Some victims have low self-esteem, while others have a great deal of confidence and esteem in other areas of their life (at work, as a parent, with hobbies, etc.) but not within their relationship. In terms of dealing with the relationship, a sense of powerlessness may exist. A victim may believe that they could not make it on their own or that they are somehow better off with the abuser as part of their life.

Personality Changes:

People may notice that a very outgoing person, for instance, becoming quiet and shy around their partner over time. This happens because the one being battered "walks on egg shells" when in the presence of the one who is abusive. Accusations (of flirting, talking too loudly, or telling the wrong story to someone) have taught the abused person that it is easier to act a certain way around the batterer than to experience additional accusations in the future.

Fear of Conflict:

As a result of being battered, some victims may generalize the experience of powerlessness with other relationships. Conflicts with co-workers, friends, relatives, and neighbors can create a lot of anxiety. For many, it is easier to give in to whatever someone else wants than to challenge it. Asserting needs and desires begins to feel like a battle, and not worth the risks of losing. Victims may also exhibit overly-friendly behavior, particularly to those that they percieve as being in a position of power (like the abuser's inlaws, a boss or a supervisor at work, or even to advocates if a victim seeking help from a domestic violence program. This can manifest as everything from sending cards to only very casual acquaintences to making dinner or providing over-indulgent attention.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior:

For adults or children who have experienced violence from a loved one, the ability to identify feelings and wants, and to express them, may not exist. This could result in passive-aggressive behavior. Rather than telling others what they want, they say one thing but then express anger or frustration in an aggressive manner (such as burning dinner, or not completing a report on time for their boss).

Self-Blame:

You may notice someone taking all of the blame for things that go wrong. A co-worker may share a story about something that happened at home and then take all of the blame for whatever occurred. If you notice this happening a lot, it may be a sign that this person is being battered or experiencing emotional abuse.

Isolation and Control:

In general, adults who are abused physically are often isolated. Their partners tend to control their lives to a great extent as well as verbally degrade them. This isolation is intended to make the abuser the center of the victim's universe, as well as to purposefully limit the victim's access to others who might attempt to help the victim escape. You might notice that someone: has limited access to the telephone, frequently makes excuses as to why they can't see you or they insist that their partner has to come along, doesn't seem to be able to make decisions about spending money, isn't allowed to drive, go to school or get a job; or has a noteable change in self-esteem which might include inability to make eye contact or looking away or at the ground when talking.

Stress-Related Problems:

These often manifest as poor sleep, sleeping at strange times (also a sign of depression), experiencing non-specific aches or pains that are either constant and/or recurring, stomach problems, chronic headaches, and flare up of problems made worse by stress such as excema.

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