What is domestic violence and abuse?
When people think of domestic abuse, they often focus on domestic violence. But domestic abuse includes any attempt by one person in an intimate relationship or marriage to dominate and control the other. 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.” An abuser uses fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under their thumb.
Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone; it does not discriminate. Abuse happens within heterosexual relationships and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more often victimized, men also experience abuse—especially verbal and emotional. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether from a man, woman, teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal assault to violence. And while physical injury may pose 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 relationship is abusive.
Who has ever been in a relationship that was not only violent but that you knew was wrong and had been for quite some time?
Barriers to escaping a violence relationship include by are not limited to:
- The fear that the abuser’s actions will become more violent and may become lethal if the victim attempts to leave.
- Unsupportive friends and family
- Knowledge of the difficulties of single parenting and reduced financial circumstances
- The victim feeling that the relationship is a mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear.
- The victim’s lack of knowledge of or access to safety and support
- Fear of losing custody of any children if they leave or divorce their abuser or fear the abuser will hurt, or even kill, their children
- Lack of means to support themselves and/or their children financially or lack of access to cash, bank accounts, or assets
- Lack of having somewhere to go (e.g. no friends or family to help, no money for hotel, shelter programs are full or limited by length of stay)
- Fear that homelessness may be their only option if they leave
- Religious or cultural beliefs and practices may not support divorce or may dictate outdated gender roles and keep the victim trapped in the relationship
- Belief that two parent households are better for children, despite abuse
A victim’s reasons for staying with their abusers are extremely complex and, in most cases, are based on the reality that their abuser will follow through with the threats they have used to keep them trapped: the abuser will hurt or kill them, they will hurt or kill the kids, they will win custody of the children, they will ruin their victim financially — the list goes on. The victim in violent relationships knows their abuser best and fully knows the extent to which they will go to make sure they have and can maintain control over the victim. The victim literally may not be able to safely escape or protect those they love.
The 13 most common signs of emotional abuse are:
Psychopaths know that no one is about to drop at their feet and declare their love for someone as twisted and cruel as they are, so they developed a technique, sometimes known as love-bombing.
The person will lure a partner of their choosing by being the most overly-invested, kind-hearted person. They will act like you are the most amazing person they’ve ever met. “I don’t know what I’d do without you”, they’ll say. You’ll feel special.
However, once you’re attached they’ll start devaluing you. It might be a random comment that puts you down, or blaming you for things you haven’t done. But slowly they will start to worm seeds of doubt about your own character or looks into your mind.
2. Putting others down This is a warning sign. Sure, someone who’s been in a particularly bad relationship might talk about how bad it was. However, someone with psychopathic or narcissistic tendencies will say terrible things about their exes to their new partner.
Be aware, the same things could just as easily be said about you if things turn sour. Think whether your partner’s remarks are justified or not.
3. Questioning your sanity
If you’ve ever seen The Girl on the Train, you’ll know this one. A partner will make you doubt your own sanity by asking questions like ‘are you crazy?’, or making you feel as though a problem is your fault, even if you don’t remember it being that way.
It makes you feel bad, want to apologise and gives your manipulative partner the upper hand.
Projecting is all about the abuser pushing their desires or wrongdoings on you. If they’ve cheated, it will be your fault for ‘wanting to cheat’ first.
If your partner is mean to you, it’s only because ‘you were mean’ first. Projecting is a form of blame shifting designed to make you feel bad while helping the manipulator avoid desires they’d rather not acknowledge.
5. Assuring you they’re ‘nice’
This is a big red flag. If you’re really a nice person, how many times have you had to tell people? Probably never because you’ve never done anything to make them suspect otherwise.
If your partner is assuring you of their virtues, make sure their actions show it.
6. Talking s**t in arguments
Psychopaths and narcissists will do anything to make sure they come out of an argument with the upper hand. One way is moving an argument in nonsensical circles to get you as confused and out of your comfort zone as possible.
You may have seen this kind of thing in debates, particularly those involving Donald Trump. It’s an effective tactic, every time you bring up a rational argument it’s drowned out by a million nonsensical arguments that devalue you and get you confused without actually debating the original accusation. It’s a defence tactic to avoid actually being called out as ‘wrong’, something narcissists hate.
7. Shifting the blame
This is an obvious one. Someone who views themselves as the epitome of ‘perfect’ isn’t going to want to take the blame for anything. If you’re upset with their behaviour, they’ll spend the next 20 minutes explaining how you’re worse.
Watch out for someone who can’t take emotional responsibility for their actions. In the early stages this might be coming up with 101 excuses why they’re late, or why they’re texting another girl or guy – It’s because they can’t take the blame.
8. Talking about themselves
Again, this one is obvious but something we often dismiss. Do you often tell your partner about how hard your day was only for them to try and one-up you?
You’ll find that their boss is always worse, their workload is always harder; really they’d much rather talk about themselves than you. They want sympathy and attention, of course, and want to take it away from you as soon as possible.
9. Saying mean things as a ‘joke’
While teasing can often be a flirting tactic, don’t forget your sense of self-worth. If a comment really makes you feel bad, try and explain this to the person. They might have thought you’d take it differently, in which case they’ll apologise. Or, they’ll call you crazy (see point 3).
10. Ultimatums and threats
Toxic personalities inherently want control. If you’re not shaping up, they’ll make unrealistic demands of you, using your attachment to them as a tool for blackmail.
“If you do that, I’ll leave you,” is the gist. They’ve decided they don’t want you seeing your best friend? They don’t want you going to a certain bar? This one will come up.
“Your mum loves me, why would you leave?” This is a prime example of triangulation – using a third party’s supposed opinion (who probably doesn’t know the full story) to manipulate a partner.
You can also use this tactic in defence, though, by gaining the influence of another third party who isn’t under your partner’s influence who can stand up for you and add validation to your comments.
12. Misrepresenting your opinions
This is the process of ‘putting words in your mouth’. Your partner will make sweeping, exaggerated statements that class you as a certain person and put you down. While these might not be true, they can have a serious effect on your self-worth. An example of this is, “You’ll never be happy”. Statements like these might come up when you bring up a concern, and it will quash your confidence to argue quickly.
Another example is your partner misrepresenting your feelings to play the victim. They’ll say you always make him out to be awful, or that you pretend you’re perfect. It’s just another form of making you feel crazy and clingy when you’re really just sticking up for your rights.
13. Targeting your reputation
This is a tactic that results in isolating you as much as possible (making your narcissist partner the centre of your universe). They might say bad things about you behind your back or even to your face that paint them as the victim. They’ll call you names that make you the aggressor, like a ‘b***ch*.
They might also try and stop you seeing your friends by telling you things that aren’t true, perhaps that they don’t like you or are bad influences. This is another form of control.
Of course, you might find one of these signs in your own relationship and your partner might not be narcissistic, toxic, or a psychopath. But if you’re seeing a few of these warning signs make sure you take a moment to think about your relationship and how it’s really making you feel.
Speak up if you suspect domestic violence or abuse
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or that the person might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save their life.
Talk to the person in private and let them know that you’re concerned. Point out the signs you’ve noticed that worry you. Tell the person that you’re there for them, whenever they feel ready to talk. Reassure them that you’ll keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let them 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 or physically abused are often depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help getting out of the situation, yet their partner has often isolated them 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.
If you need help from domestic abuse/violence or know of anyone who does Please hit the following link for support and remember, no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship.