Know the Signs of Domestic Violence


Physical abuse isn’t the only red flag to watch out for

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Many communities have events to show solidarity with those impacted by domestic violence. With that, I figured that this would be the perfect opportunity to share the basics with you.  So, welcome to Domestic Violence 101!

Even if you haven’t personally been a victim, it is likely you will encounter someone that has. Typically, one might recognize domestic violence strictly as physical abuse, however, it comes in many forms including emotional, sexual, financial and psychological.  Any of these forms can make the lives of women and men a daily prison.  You may work, live next to, or worship with someone experiencing such abuse.

So, what is domestic violence? Our U.S. Department of Justice defines it as, “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”  Let’s break down the different forms of abuse:


The most known and easily identifiable form of abuse can include, but is not limited to, shoving, hitting, punching, slapping, spitting on, kicking, pinching, and choking the victim. This category also includes throwing or breaking objects and physical intimidation.


These abusive techniques are quite subtle. I am here to say with certainty that emotional abuse is just as toxic as physical. I venture to say that emotional abuse is even more difficult to recover and move on from. Emotional abuse includes control of resources, blaming the victim, criticism, jealousy, excessive rules, isolation, instilling fear in the victim, giving the victim the silent treatment, name calling or labeling, threats, and making the victim responsible for their emotions by blaming them for an abuser’s actions.


As with emotional abuse, psychological abuse can go on for years and others may not recognize the signs. These can include the victim becoming indecisive and confused when they were once self-assured and grounded, feeling anxious as if walking on eggshells, insecurities that have since intensified since entering the relationship, losing confidence in our own judgement. These coercive tactics aren’t seen as hurtful or damaging and often go unrecognized by others.


This type of abuse consists of any action that prevents the victim from gainful employment, access to money and financial independence. Examples include forbidding the victim to work, sabotaging employment opportunities, controlling how money is spent, prevents access to accounts, provides an allowance, using the victims credit without permission or ruining their credit, forcing the victim to account for money spent by showing receipts or withholds money for basic necessities and even forcing the victim to turnover their pay of benefit check. 


Sexual abuse is not always by a stranger. In fact, almost 90 percent of sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator.  This includes the victim’s significant other or spouse. Examples include forcing the victim to perform sexual acts against their will,  continuing a sexual act even after the victim has withdrawn consent; forcing the victim to participate in acts with others against their will, showing videos or photos of the victim without consent and coercing the victim to participate in sexual acts.

How Should I Respond to Someone Who Confides in Me?

Believe them. Many perpetrators wear a mask and put on a completely different persona while behind closed doors they are terrorizing their victims. Secondly, listen instead of judging.  You may just be the first person they’ve ever told. The last response they want to hear is an accusatory, or judgmental comment. Lastly, direct them to local resources that are familiar with domestic violence. Professionals understand the nuances of this dynamic and assist while keeping them safe.

Abuse is NOT love.  If you or someone you know has been or is currently in an abusive relationship, here are a few resources:

800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Abuse rarely begins with acts of physical violence and these predators appear charming, disguising their toxicity, using their best smile and bedroom eyes. They are depending upon your naivete and vulnerability to execute their plan.   While reading this article, a few of these red flags may have resonated with you. If you are being abused, just know you did nothing wrong.  The only person responsible for abuse is the ABUSER.  Nothing that you have done nor said causes another to harm, hurt, damage or violate you. Whether you in the relationship currently or realized that this happened in the past, there is help and hope.