Know the Signs

Women in the U.S. are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than anyone else.

A perpetrator may begin abuse slowly and in small ways in an effort to gain greater power and control in a relationship. The behaviors can escalate and grow significantly over time. It can also become difficult to distinguish whether certain actions are considered abusive because of the range of tactics abusers can use.

There are signs for family and friends that can help them identify whether someone they know is involved in a harmful relationship.

What are common signs your partner is being abusive in a relationship?

  • Keeps you from seeing or contacting your family and friends
  • Takes and controls money, including refusing to give you money and how it’s spent
  • Insults, shames you, or puts you down
  • Controls all aspects of your life, including what you do, what you wear, and where you go
  • Has unrealistic expectations, such as a partner has to be available at all times
  • Threatens to take away or hurt your children
  • Threatens to hurt or kill pets
  • Denies abuse is happening or downplays it as a problem
  • Plays mind games and places blame 
  • Destroys property
  • Forces you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Intimidates you with guns, knives, or other weapons
  • Shoves, slaps, chokes, and/or hits you
  • Forces sexual acts on you against your will
  • Threatens to commit suicide

What are some common signs of each type of abuse?

Any of these signs should alarm you that a relationship is abusive. A perpetrator does need to use all of these actions to be an abuser—even one of these behaviors is a sign of domestic violence.

Physical abuse

  • Hitting you
  • Slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, and pulling hair
  • Choking you or trying to suffocate you
  • Stopping you from getting medical care
  • Using weapons
  • Forcing you to use alcohol or drugs
  • Driving dangerously while you are in the car

Sexual abuse

  • Holding you down during sex
  • Forcing you to have sex or making you do other sexual acts you don’t want to do
  • Forcing you to have sex after hurting you or when you are sick or tired
  • Calling you sexual names or forcing you to dress in a certain way

Emotional abuse

  • Name-calling or insulting you
  • Acting jealous and not trusting you
  • Humiliating you
  • Making you question your perception of reality within a relationship by using terms like “That never happened” or “It’s all in your head”
  • Cheating on you repeatedly and then blaming you for it
  • Damaging your relationships with your children

Economic abuse

  • Withholding access to your money
  • Refusing to let you go to work or school
  • Forcing you to mount up debt to hurt your credit
  • Refusing you to use money on necessities like food and medical care
  • Preventing you from viewing bank accounts

Psychological abuse 

  • Intimidating you
  • Isolating you from other people
  • Threatening to harm people you care about

Digital abuse

  • Controls your passwords
  • Searches your phone often, including texts and calls
  • Monitors you with any technology, such as a GPS
  • Insults you in social media status updates
  • Prevents you from deciding who can and cannot be your friends or followers on social media
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