Domestic Abuse: Are You in an Abusive Relationship?
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By Cathy Meyer, Founding Editor - August 12, 2013 - Updated October 02, 2013


While emotional abuse can be hard to pinpoint, physical abuse is more easily identified. Below are checklists that will help you identify whether or not your relationship is either emotionally or physically abusive.

What is physical abuse?

Physical abuse leaves behind bruises and broken bones, while emotional abuse kills the self esteem of the victim. Physical abuse is a situation where the husband beats the wife for little or no reason. Are you subjected to any of the below signs of physical abuse?

  • Pushes, grabs or shoves you,
  • Slaps you,
  • Punches you,
  • Kicks you,
  • Chokes you,
  • Pinches you,
  • Pulls your hair,
  • Burns you,
  • Bites you,
  • Ties you up,
  • Forces you to share needles with others,
  • Threatens you with a knife, gun or other weapon,
  • Uses a knife, gun or other weapon,
  • Prevents you from leaving an area/physically restrains you,
  • Throws objects,
  • Destroys property or your possessions,
  • Drives recklessly to frighten you,
  • Disregards your needs when you are ill, injured or pregnant,
  • Abuses you while you are pregnant,
  • Forces you to abort or carry a pregnancy.

If you are in a physically abusive relationship feelings of guilt or fear may prevent you from getting help. But it is important for you to seek help and continue to get help for yourself as long as you need. If you are concerned about the abuse level you are experiencing, please call either 911 or the National Domestic Abuse hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233).

What is emotional abuse?

There is no universally accepted definition of emotional abuse. Like other forms of violence in relationships, emotional abuse is based on power and control. The following are widely recognized as forms of emotional abuse: Your spouse…

  • Frequently blames or criticizes you,
  • Calls you names,
  • Ridicules your beliefs, religion, race class or sexual preference,
  • Blames you for “causing” the abuse,
  • Ridicules/makes bad remarks about your gender,
  • Criticizes or threatens to hurt your family or friends,
  • Isolates you from your family and friends,
  • Abuses animals,
  • Tries to keep you from doing something you wanted to do,
  • Is angry if you pay too much attention to someone or something else (children, friends, school, etc.),
  • Withholds approval, appreciation or affection,
  • Humiliates you,
  • Becomes angry if meals or housework are not done to his/her liking,
  • Makes contradictory demands,
  • Does not include you in important decisions,
  • Does not allow you to sleep,
  • Repeatedly harasses you about things you did in the past,
  • Takes away car keys, money or credit cards,
  • Threatens to leave or told you to leave,
  • Checks up on you (listens to your phone calls, looks at phone bills, checks the mileage on the car, etc.),
  • Tells people you suffer from a mental illness,
  • Threatens to commit suicide,
  • Interferes with your work or school (provokes a fight in the morning, calls to harass you at work, etc.),
  • Minimizes or denies being abusive,
  • Abuses your children,
  • Uses drugs or alcohol to excuse their behavior,
  • Uses phrases like “I’ll show you who the boss is,” or ”I’ll put you in line,”
  • Uses loud or intimidating tone of voice,
  • Comes home at late hours refusing to give an explanation.

Emotional abuse can have serious physical and psychological consequences for women, including severe depression, anxiety, persistent headaches, back and limb problems, and stomach problems. If you are concerned about the abuse level you are experiencing, please call The National Abuse hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233).

Three stages of an abusive relationship:

Stage One: Tension-Building. Rather than using mutual communication, negotiation, or compromise to solve problems, violent individuals tend to rely on the use of force or coercion to get what they want. Typically, violence occurs after a build-up of tension in the relationship about issues which are not directly discussed or resolved.

During this period, tension mounts, communication decreases, and both partners may feel tense, edgy, and jumpy. Arguments and criticism tend to increase during this period.

Stage Two: Violence after the build-up. Physical violence may erupt over seemingly insignificant issues. Tension seems to be released, and often, the relationship seems to improve.

Stage Three: Seduction. Abusers often apologize, make promises to change, and pay special attention to their partners immediately following a violent incident. This period is sometimes referred to as the "honeymoon period" because of the positive feelings resulting from the release of tension and the hope that things will change for the better. This kind of spontaneous change rarely occurs, however, because the underlying pattern of control and lack of communication and compromise has not changed.

If you recognize your relationship in any of the lists or stages above I urge you to seek help and immediately remove yourself from the relationship. Please turn to a trusted friend, family member or The National Domestic Abuse hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233).

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