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Am I in an Abusive Relationship?

Falling into an abusive relationship can happen to anyone. Sadly, the problem is all too often ignored, overlooked, denied, or excused. Still, even if there is no actual physical abuse battery involved, abusive relationships fall under the category of domestic violence (DV). While DV typically involves the willful assault, battery, or other blatant forms of abuse by a partner in an intimate relationship, it also includes psychological aspects of abuse when used to control a partner, such as intimidation, or any other type of abusive behavior of one person toward another. It can involve physical, emotional, and/or sexual violence. DV is about control. Both males and females can be victims of DV.

Abuse can happen to anyone and at any age and such relationships affect people of every age, race, religion, sexual orientation, education level, and socioeconomic background. Abuse not only affects those within the relationships, but also those people who are in their lives – family members, friends, and co-workers. In fact, DV was recently declared to be the number one health concern in our country today by the U.S. Surgeon General. It is important, then, that we all understand how to recognize when it is happening around us and to be willing to provide the necessary help and resources to victims.

Abuse comes in many forms and looks different in every situation. Batterers may use any of the following in order to exert control over their victims:

  • Physical abuse: hitting, slapping, pushing, grabbing, pinching, hair pulling, cornering the victim, confining or limiting freedoms or time with others.
  • Sexual abuse: Unwanted sexual contact or sexual behavior toward the victim, including forced sex (marital rape falls in this category), grabbing intimate body parts, sexually demeaning the victim, or telling sexual jokes at victim’s expense.
  • Emotional abuse: constant criticism, name calling, undermining the victim’s accomplishments, threatening self-worth of the other person, damaging relationships in order to isolate the victim.
  • Economic abuse: hiding money or controlling financial resources, withholding access to money, forbidding employment, school, or other means of financial independence.
  • Psychological abuse: causing fear, using intimidation and/or threatening behaviors, threatening harm to self or others, destruction of property, harming pets, forced isolation from family and friends.
  • Stalking: spying, harassing, showing up at the victim’s home or work, persistent phone calling, emailing, or cyberstalking (such as leaving unwanted messages or posts that inflict substantial emotional distress).

If you or someone you know is a victim of DV, it is important to take the matter seriously. DV can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, death. The danger is real and is more than the result of someone having a bad day. Learn the warning signs and believe that everyone has a right to feel safe in a relationship.

Resources for Abuse Victims

If you are in immediate danger, call 911

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

National Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center
1-800-211-7996 (TTY)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
1-866-331-8453 TTY

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

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