Abusive relationships can happen to both men and women at any age. Knowing the signs of abuse and what to do if you spot them in your relationship or the relationship of a loved one can quickly help put a stop to it.
Types of Abusive Relationships
Most people think of domestic violence they imagine physical abuse, but abuse can be emotional, sexual, or physical. Many times, an abuser will start by controlling his/her girlfriend or boyfriend through threats and manipulation that will later escalate to violence.
Attacking a person on an emotional level is often the first step in abusive relationships. The abuser gains control by lowering your self-esteem. Abusers typically try to influence all aspects of their victim's life in an attempt to make the victim dependent on them.
Your partner is emotionally abusing you if he or she:
- Calls you insulting names and makes fun of you.
- Keeps track of where you are and who you see. You may also be forced to ask permission to see friends or family members.
- Becomes jealous and overprotective of you and your time.
- Manages your finances and makes you ask for money.
- Is nice and caring in private but mocks you in front of other people.
- Threatens to hurt him or herself if you leave the relationship.
A person who truly loves you will never pressure you into sexual activities that you are uneasy about, but this is a common tool abusers use. Sexual abuse can happen outside the bedroom, too, with demands for you to change into sexy clothing before going out or forcing you to engage in public displays of affection that make you uncomfortable.
Some clear sign of sexual abuse include:
- Not respecting your sexual limits.
- Insisting on sex even if you don't feel well.
- Guilting you into sex acts by saying it will prove you love him or her.
- Withholding sex or affection and using them as a reward for your good behavior.
Although physical violence is an obvious sign of an abusive relationship, the person behind the violence will often make excuses or blame the victim for the hostility. If you suspect you may be in a physically abusive relationship, watch for these warning signs:
- You've been hit, slapped, pushed, bitten, or kicked by your partner.
- You fear for your safety.
- Your partner threatens you, your children, or your pets.
- Your partner destroys your property.
There is no excuse for your boyfriend or girlfriend to hurt you. A healthy relationship never includes violence.
How to Get Out of Abusive Relationships
An abusive relationship usually can't be fixed unless the abuser recognizes his actions and is willing to work on his behavior. This usually means intensive therapy and anger management. For the therapy to be successful, the abuser must accept responsibility for the violence and work on it willingly. Relationship counseling can be effective in some cases of abusive relationships.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a free resource that provides information and support 24 hours a day to people who need information about leaving an abusive relationship. By calling 1-800-799-SAFE, you can get advice and referral information to organizations in your area.