Abuse

There are many signs that you could be in an abusive relationship if you know what to look for. First, it’s important to have an idea of what is considered a healthy, respectful relationship. You may be in an abusive relationship if you begin to feel that you deserve the mistreatment from your partner and you begin to justify your partner’s abusive behaviors.


If you are finding yourself to be in an abusive relationship, remember that it is not your fault and you do not deserve to be treated poorly. It is important to seek help immediately and stay away from your abuser. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Types of Abuse in Relationships

There are several types of abuse that can occur in relationships, including:


Physical Abuse: Intentional bodily injury such as slapping, kicking, punching, choking, pinching and physical restraints.

Sexual Abuse & Coercion: Nonconsensual sexual behaviors by one partner to another. Contact that is unwanted and unwelcome, such as touch, rape, nudity, sexually explicit photography and sodomy.

Mental & Emotional Abuse: Purposefully causing emotional pain and/or mental pain. Behaviors of emotional abuse include isolation, harassment, ridiculing, coercion, intimidation, coercion, silencing and controlling behaviors, yelling and swearing and other verbal attempts to cause mental distress. Spiritual abuse is also a form of this type of abuse.

25 Abusive Relationship Signs

There are a number of red flags to look for if you think you may be in an abusive relationship. Some abusive relationships begin as toxic relationships, and you may not recognize the toxic traits until they become abusive. It’s also important to consider the cycle of abuse you may be in if there has been a pattern of abuse and then reconciliation, as abusers tend to create these cycles to keep their victim submissive.

There are many signs that you could be in an abusive relationship if you know what to look for. First, it’s important to have an idea of what is considered a healthy, respectful relationship. You may be in an abusive relationship if you begin to feel that you deserve the mistreatment from your partner and you begin to justify your partner’s abusive behaviors.


If you are finding yourself to be in an abusive relationship, remember that it is not your fault and you do not deserve to be treated poorly. It is important to seek help immediately and stay away from your abuser. You don’t have to go through this alone.

There are several types of abuse that can occur in relationships, including:


Physical Abuse: Intentional bodily injury such as slapping, kicking, punching, choking, pinching and physical restraints.

Sexual Abuse & Coercion: Nonconsensual sexual behaviors by one partner to another. Contact that is unwanted and unwelcome, such as touch, rape, nudity, sexually explicit photography and sodomy.

Mental & Emotional Abuse: Purposefully causing emotional pain and/or mental pain. Behaviors of emotional abuse include isolation, harassment, ridiculing, coercion, intimidation, coercion, silencing and controlling behaviors, yelling and swearing and other verbal attempts to cause mental distress. Spiritual abuse is also a form of this type of abuse.

25 Abusive Relationship Signs

There are a number of red flags to look for if you think you may be in an abusive relationship. Some abusive relationships begin as toxic relationships, and you may not recognize the toxic traits until they become abusive. It’s also important to consider the cycle of abuse you may be in if there has been a pattern of abuse and then reconciliation, as abusers tend to create these cycles to keep their victim submissive.


“Most people expect to feel scared or angry when in an abuse situation, but the reality is much more complex. You might feel both of those things, but usually an abusive situation is maintained by the fact that you also feel deep love and a sense of intimacy and closeness. You might feel like your abuser is the only person who loves or protects or understands or appreciates you. That’s part of what makes it so hard to even think about leaving.”


Here are 25 potential signs of an abusive relationship:

Verbal abuse

Poor temper by abuser

Unpredictable behaviors by abuser

Cruelty to animals and others by abuser

Possessiveness by abuser

Jealousy by abuser

Threatening behavior by the abuser

Forced sexual activity by abuser and disregard for others desire for such activity

Controlling behavior by abuser and codependency

Sexist beliefs about gender roles by abuser and gaslighting

Financial control by abuser

Blaming the victim and trauma bonding

Abuse of children by abuser

Accusing the victim of perceived slights

Controlling the attire of the victim

Demeaning behaviors and attitude toward victim

Publicly shaming the victim

Harassment of the victim publicly

Bruises on the body, black eye, bleeding, cuts, lacerations and broken bones on the victim

The victim displays rapid changes in behavior

Sexually transmitted infections on the victims person

Overdose of medication or underdose of medication for the victim

Malnutrition of the victim

Growing health issues of the victim

Withdrawing behaviors by the victim

Effects of Abusive Relationships

If you are in an abusive relationship, you may feel hopeless about how the situation might improve, or you might feel guilty for staying in a relationship even though you know it’s not healthy.


Abusive relationships can make someone feel:


Confused

Hopeless

Guilty

Afraid

Shamed

Moody

Someone in an abusive relationship may also develop mental health concerns, like:


Difficulty concentrating

Social isolation, withdrawal and feeling lonely

Having nightmares

Anxiety

Depression

PTSD

Developing an eating disorder

Developing a substance use disorder

Someone may also develop physical issues, like:


Tight muscles

Racing heart

Body aches and pains

Chronic psychosomatic pain or physical pain

Sleep issues

Heart disease

Headaches and migraines

How to Leave an Abusive Relationship

Making the decision and plan to leave an abusive relationship can seem very scary and difficult even though the way you are being treated is unacceptable. You may have your finances and housing intermingled, which can be hard to separate. You may be experiencing trauma bonding as well, making the idea of leaving even more challenging. You may also be so isolated from friends and family that you don’t know how to contact anyone for support. You are not alone and you’re brave for taking steps to leave a toxic relationship.


Gordon cautions, “If you are thinking of leaving an abusive relationship, you need to have a safe place to go, a safe way to get there (car keys, gas money, bus fare), and a clear plan. You also want to have access to important documents like your passport or birth certificate, insurance cards, or car registrations. Keep those in one place so you can grab them easily. If you can, try to build up some money that you have secure or job skills you can use once you’re safe.”


Here are six steps to take if you’re ready to leave an abusive relationship:3


Being aware of red flags: When you sense that your abuser is going to get angry and you can anticipate that something may happen, stay vigilant. When you sense this is happening, plan to have reasons to leave the house. Have a story or explanation that will be believed both during the day and at night.

Find safe spots: If your abuser starts to get angry and you feel they may become abusive, locate a safe area of the house where you can go. Make sure these areas have access to a window and a phone. Try to avoid places with no exits such as closets. Also, connect with a neighbor or friend as well and come up with a plan to leave the house and go elsewhere.

Have a code word:> Come up with language or a gesture that you can use to alert others that you are in danger and to seek help. A code word, a facial expression, or a hand gesture are all ways to communicate discreetly. Know where you can go in case of an emergency and locate potential shelters.

Have a go bag ready: Make sure you have a packed bag with the essentials that you can grab and leave the house with. A key, car keys, clothes, cash, phone numbers, documents, etc. Asking a friend or relative to keep copies of all of these is important as well. Make sure you have access to the location you are fleeing to, whether that is a shelter or a friend’s house (a key hidden in a specific spot) so you are not stuck without a place to go to.

Do a practice drill: Practice leaving the house and go over your exit plan so you know what to do. If you have children, have them participate so they also know what to do.

Don’t use a phone that your abuser has access to: This phone might have information such as location tracking, account information, and billing. Use a go phone, a prepaid phone, payphone or a friend’s phone if you need to make phone calls. The same goes for other devices such as computers and tablets.

If you are in an abusive situation and need help getting out, there is no shame in asking for help. Connect with trusted friends and loved ones to help you get to safety and out of the volatile relationship. There are many resources available that can help you heal and move forward. Many domestic violence shelters and organizations give victims access to legal support, therapy, children’s services, healthcare, employment support, educational services, and financial assistance. Your information will remain private and protected as shelters are aware that abusers oftentimes search for their escaped victim.4


How a Therapist’s Support Can Help

Given the emotional volatility of an abusive relationship, it’s important to seek help immediately if you feel you are in danger of any kind. You do not need to endure any kind of abuse in a relationship and are not obligated to stay or try to work things out. Abuse should never be tolerated and a therapist can help you normalize this into an internalized belief.5


Ideally, the right time to get help with these relationship issues is when one or both partners identifies an issue in the relationship, far before abuse actually begins. It can be challenging to talk about with your partner, so it’s important to consider individual or couples therapy, depending on what your issues are.


Seeking therapy is a big challenge for those with abusive behaviors in part due to the major gaps in self awareness that don’t allow them to recognize areas for self-improvement. It may be likely that the victim in the relationship is the one to initiate therapy, either individually or couples therapy. The act of going to therapy and having someone listen without judgment and feel that your needs matter can help restore some of the self worth that was lost due to the abuse you’ve endured. A therapist can help you unlearn unhealthy relationships, deal with any relationship PTSD you’re experiencing, and learn what healthy relationships look like.


A great way to find a therapist for these types of relationships is by searching an online directory where you can search for someone who has experience with abuse in relationships. All licensed therapists can be equipped to help people struggling with these issues. Reading reviews and looking at clinician bios to understand their scope of practice can give you an idea of whether their experience suits your situation. Many therapists offer a free phone consultation and teletherapy visits.


Another way to locate a therapist is by referral, which can come from a trusted loved one or a physician. Healthcare providers often have access to a network of other providers who can be helpful. Going through your primary care provider is also a great way to keep them in the loop about any treatment options or trauma experienced in the relationship.


Supporting a Friend in an Abusive Relationship

It can be difficult to know how to help someone who feels trapped in an abusive relationship. The best thing you can do is be there for them as a consistent source of support.


Gordon says, “The most important thing you can do is to maintain a relationship. Abusers often isolate their victims, and so just being a steady presence makes you a lifeline. Keep in contact. Don’t try to push your friend to leave before they’re ready or try to force them to acknowledge their partner is abusive. That can backfire and leave your friend even more isolated. Just remaining in their lives, and expressing that you’re there for them is the best way to help. That way, when they feel ready, you can help them get to safety or access other supports.”


Final Thoughts

If you are dealing with issues stemming from toxic or abusive relationships, talking to a therapist can make a big difference in how you feel. Abuse in any form should not be tolerated, but therapy and reaching out to your support network can help you recognize this and develop an exit plan.

Toni🕯️

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083 651 3729

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