If your partner displays a combination of these behaviors, then you may be getting involved with a potential batterer. If your partner hits you in public, tries to strangle you or threatens suicide, get help immediately. These are warning signs of extreme danger.
Warning signs of an abusive personality
- Gets too close too fast. Comes on strong claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” An abuser pressures for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.
- Is excessively possessive. Calls constantly or visits unexpectedly. Prevents you from going to work because “you might meet someone,” and even checks the mileage on your car.
- Is controlling. Interrogates you intensely (especially if you’re late) about where you were and who else was there. Insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.
- Has unrealistic expectations. Expects you to be perfect all the time and meet every need no matter how unreasonable.
- Isolates you. Tries to cut you off from family and friends and accuses people who are your supporters of “causing trouble.” An abuser may try to prevent you from holding a job, going to church or being part of school organizations.
- Blames others for problems and mistakes. The teacher, the coach, you—it’s always someone else’s fault if anything goes wrong.
- Refuses to take personal responsibility for feelings. An abuser says, “You make me angry.” instead of, “I am angry.” Less obvious but equally telling is the claim: “You make me happy.”
- Is hypersensitive. Claims, “You hurt my feelings.” when anger is the real emotion. Rants about the injustice of things that are just part of life.
- Is cruel to animals. May include excessive punishing, hurting or even killing.
- Displays “playful” use of force. Enjoys throwing you down or holding you against your will. Forces you to kiss and doesn’t’ accept no for an answer.
- Verbally assaults. Constantly criticizes you or says blatantly cruel, hurtful things. Degrades you, curses and calls you ugly names. If it begins to happen in front of other people, then you are at risk for physical abuse.
- Insists on rigid roles. “Men are strong.” “Women are weak.” He expects you to serve and obey because you are “his woman.” She expects you to control and handle everything because you are “her man.”
- Displays sudden mood swings. Quickly switches from sweetly loving to explosively violent.
- Has battered in the past. Admits to hitting partners in the past but blames it on someone or something else.
- Threatens you with physical violence. Says things like, “I’ll break your neck.” or “I’ll kill you.” followed by, “Everybody talks that way.” or “I didn’t’ really mean it.” If the verbal abuse has come this far, it’s time to get out and get help.
- According to the FBI, family violence is the leading cause of injury to women.
- 38% of Texas women—more than one in three—have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime. (Texas Council on Family Violence)
- 70% of the children of abused women are also physically abused, and 20% are sexually abused. The majority of abusive men were either abused as children or witnessed their mothers being abused. (WomenKind, Inc.)
- Direct healthcare costs associated with domestic violence are estimated at more than $4.1 billion annually; productivity losses associated with injuries and death are estimated at more than $1.8 billion annually. (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control journal Violence and Victims
Family Violence in Dallas
- In 2011, the Dallas Police Department Family Violence Unit reported 13,733 family violence calls resulting in 1,239 aggravated assaults, 16 murders, 11,529 assaults, 127 offenses against children, 66 rapes and 632 other related offenses including kidnapping, stalking, vandalism and robbery.
- According to the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, in 2011, there were 9,344 requests for Protective Orders, 1,173 victims screened for Protective Orders, 1,259 qualified applicants, 713 Protective Orders filed, and 713 new Protective Orders granted.
- The 2011 Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance Point-in-Time Homeless Count found 5,783 people living on Dallas streets or in shelters, up slightly from the 5,750 counted in 2010. The 2011 count included 1,106 children and 51 unaccompanied youth. Domestic abuse/family problems were listed as the reason for homelessness by 27% of the population. Without these emergency shelter services, these victims would be forced to return to their batterers or other unsafe housing and would be at great risk for further victimization.
Women don’t have to live in fear:In the US: call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
UK: call Women’s Aid at 0808 2000 247.
Canada: call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-363-9010.
Australia: call 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732.
Worldwide: visit International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies for a global list of helplines and crisis centers.
Male victims of abuse can call:
Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.
Domestic violence and abuse does not discriminate. It happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused—especially verbally and emotionally, although sometimes even physically as well. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.
Recognizing abuse is the first step to getting helpDomestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain—and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, then you can get the help you need.
To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.
|SIGNS THAT YOU’RE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP|
|Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings||Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior|
feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
|Does your partner:|
humiliate or yell at you?
|avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?||criticize you and put you down?|
|feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?||treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?|
|believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?||ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?|
|wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?||blame you for their own abusive behavior?|
|feel emotionally numb or helpless?||see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?|
|Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats ||Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior|
|Does your partner:|
have a bad and unpredictable temper?
|Does your partner:|
act excessively jealous and possessive?
|hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?||control where you go or what you do?|
|threaten to take your children away or harm them?||keep you from seeing your friends or family?|
|threaten to commit suicide if you leave?||limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?|
|force you to have sex?||limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?|
|destroy your belongings?||constantly check up on you?|
Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuseAny situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Furthermore, people whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.
It Is Still Abuse If . . .
- The incidents of physical abuse seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard other women talk about. There isn’t a “better” or “worse” form of physical abuse; you can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example.
- The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely he will continue to physically assault you.
- The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!
- There has not been any physical violence. Many women are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.
Understanding emotional abuseThe aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without your abusive partner you have nothing.
Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.
You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so.
Economic or financial abuse: A subtle form of emotional abuseRemember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he or she will frequently use money to do so. Economic or financial abuse includes:
- Rigidly controlling your finances.
- Withholding money or credit cards.
- Making you account for every penny you spend.
- Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).
- Restricting you to an allowance.
- Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.
- Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly).
- Stealing from you or taking your money.
Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power:
- Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.
- Humiliation – An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
- Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on him or her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He or she may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
- Threats – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He or she may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.
- Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don't obey, there will be violent consequences.
- Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behavior is your fault.
Abusers are able to control their behavior—they do it all the time.
- Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don’t insult, threaten, or assault everyone in their life who gives them grief. Usually, they save their abuse for the people closest to them, the ones they claim to love.
- Abusers carefully choose when and where to abuse. They control themselves until no one else is around to see their abusive behavior. They may act like everything is fine in public, but lash out instantly as soon as you’re alone.
- Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are not out of control. In fact, they’re able to immediately stop their abusive behavior when it’s to their advantage to do so (for example, when the police show up or their boss calls).
- Violent abusers usually direct their blows where they won’t show. Rather than acting out in a mindless rage, many physically violent abusers carefully aim their kicks and punches where the bruises and marks won’t show.
- Abuse – Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show you "who is boss."
- Guilt – After abusing you, your partner feels guilt, but not over what he's done. He’s more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for his abusive behavior.
- Excuses – Your abuser rationalizes what he or she has done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
- "Normal" behavior — The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
- Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. He spends a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he'll make you pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
- Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing you.
The Full Cycle of Domestic Violence: An ExampleA man abuses his partner. After he hits her, he experiences self-directed guilt. He says, "I'm sorry for hurting you." What he does not say is, "Because I might get caught." He then rationalizes his behavior by saying that his partner is having an affair with someone. He tells her "If you weren't such a worthless whore I wouldn't have to hit you." He then acts contrite, reassuring her that he will not hurt her again. He then fantasizes and reflects on past abuse and how he will hurt her again. He plans on telling her to go to the store to get some groceries. What he withholds from her is that she has a certain amount of time to do the shopping. When she is held up in traffic and is a few minutes late, he feels completely justified in assaulting her because "you're having an affair with the store clerk." He has just set her up.
Source: Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service
General warning signs of domestic abusePeople who are being abused may:
- Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
- Go along with everything their partner says and does.
- Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing.
- Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
- Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.
Warning signs of physical violencePeople who are being physically abused may:
- Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents.”
- Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
- Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).
Warning signs of isolationPeople who are being isolated by their abuser may:
- Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
- Rarely go out in public without their partner.
- Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.
The psychological warning signs of abusePeople who are being abused may:
- Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
- Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn).
- Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.
Do's and Don'ts
- Ask if something is wrong.
- Express concern.
- Listen and validate.
- Offer help.
- Support his or her decisions.
- Wait for him or her to come to you.
- Judge or blame.
- Pressure him or her.
- Give advice.
- Place conditions on your support.
Adapted from: NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
Talk to the person in private and let him or her know that you’re concerned. Point out the things you’ve noticed that make you worried. Tell the person that you’re there, whenever he or she feels ready to talk. Reassure the person that you’ll keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let him or her know that you’ll help in any way you can.
Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.