When people think of abuse in relationships, they often think of physical violence. However, there are other ways in which a person can be abusive.
At the beginning of 2017, I got involved with someone who almost seemed too good to be true. He helped me out of another situation I was in and in a way, it seemed like he saved me. A few months into our relationship, he hit me for the first time. I wasn’t aware of it then but I now know he displayed several signs of being an abuser.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone. I never thought I’d experience it. Then it happened. More than once. One of my abusers would often say to me, “You make me hit you.” He convinced me that his abusing me was my fault. I know now that there is no excuse for abuse.
When you’re in a relationship, it’s important to recognize the signs of abuse just in case you find yourself in an abusive situation.
Signs of Abuse
- Flatters you constantly early on in the relationship
- Is charming or seems “too good to be true”
- Controlling who you see, where you go, what you do or what you wear
- Excessive texting and calling to find out where you are
- Embarrassing you or putting you down
- Being verbally abusive
- Extreme jealousy, controlling or possessiveness
- Prevents you from working or attending school
- Blaming you for the abuse or acting like it’s not actually happening
- Manipulating you
- Destroying your property or threatening to hurt you
- Bad temper
- Harming you physically by pushing, smacking, punching, kicking or choking you
- Abusing you sexually
- Has a history of abusing others
Sometimes I wonder if I’d known about some of these signs before being harmed physically, would it have made a difference in me leaving sooner.
Why Do People Stay in An Abusive Relationship?
It’s easy to judge someone who stays with their abuser when you’ve never been in their situation. Before I was ever in an abusive relationship, I had a friend who was experiencing domestic violence. I tried as hard as I could to be there for her but there was a part of me that couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t just leave for good. It wasn’t until I went through abuse that I truly understood why people don’t just leave.
Since abuse is about power and control it may be dangerous for a survivor to leave. Some people finally get the courage to leave and end up being killed by their abuser. A person may be fearful of the consequences of them leaving the relationship because of what their abuser could do. They may also be too dependent on their partner, making it hard to leave.
Another reason someone may stay is that they have low self-esteem. Because my ex blamed me for the abuse, I felt like it was my fault. I had no love for myself which made me feel like I needed him. There were even times where he told me no one else would love me.
Being abused destroys your self-esteem.
Even though a person is causing them harm, people stay in abusive relationships because they still have strong feelings for their abuser. It’s also likely they’re waiting for their partner to return to the person they were in the beginning.
Other reasons a person may stay include:
- Children – If they have children with their abuser, they could feel like they want to keep the family together.
- Shame – It wasn’t easy for me to admit that I’d been abused. I was ashamed. I felt weak and like I deserved what was happening to me.
- Intimidation – An abuser might be intimidating them into staying by using verbal or physical threats.
- Normalized Abuse – A person might not understand that their relationship is abusive.
- The Cycle of Abuse – Most times after abuse has occurred the abuser will be very apologetic and make promises that they will never do it again. This makes the person being abused look past the abuser’s behavior.
The truth is, if they abused you once, they will do it again.
Sometimes when a person is in the middle of an abusive relationship, it can be hard for them to see their abusive partner for who they really are. Abuse in any form is never ok.
If you’re currently in an abusive relationship, know that there is help available to assist you in getting out. You deserve genuine love that doesn’t require you to suffer. Know that you are worthy even if your abuser has tried to convince you that you’re not.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Chat with a live advocate at thehotline.org
National Dating Abuse Helpline
Chat with a live advocate at loveisrespect.org
National Sexual Assault Hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Deaf Abused Women’s Network (DAWN)
Women of Color Network
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence