All couples argue from time to time. In a normal argument, each party is able express their views, with both partners being on an equal footing. With domestic abuse, however, we’re not talking about normal arguments—it’s about power and control. It can be insidious—a partner might start by making some questionable jokes, gradually adopting more serious behaviour. Here are 20 examples of abuse that should always be taken seriously.
Their words are hurtful
If you often feel hurt by things your partner says, you’re not imagining things. Abuse can be subtle and take different forms. Your partner might be sarcastic in the way they talk to you, insult you, humiliate you, or raise their voice. All of these things are unacceptable and you don’t deserve to be treated that way.
Your partner shouts
It’s normal to have disagreements from time to time. However, these should not systematically descend into a shouting match. Shouting at you shows a lack of respect and is a form of domestic abuse. You don’t have to put up with this type of behaviour.
You feel that your movements are restricted
Do you have to ask for permission to go out? Perhaps you’ve come to expect shouting or insults if you ask at a “bad time.” And you wouldn’t dare to go out without their approval. If this is the situation you find yourself in, alarm bells should be ringing.
You are constantly undermined
Your partner’s tone may seem harmless enough, and their scornful attitude or constant put-downs may be disguised as jokes. However, humour is no excuse for being disrespectful to others. If you feel you’re being treated as though you don’t matter, it might be time to start asking yourself some hard questions.
Everything you say is used against you
Following abusive behaviour from your partner, you attempt to reason with them. Perhaps this ends up being used against you—maybe you’re told that you’re being mean, that what you’re saying is hurtful, that you’re upsetting them. This type of behaviour aims to make you doubt yourself. Try to keep things in perspective—you have the right to stand up to abuse and do this openly; that doesn’t make you a bad person.
Your relationship feels like a rollercoaster
After a violent episode, your partner apologizes and things are perfect for a while. They’re back to being the person you love, and you start to hope—until the next episode. This is what is known as the cycle of violence, and it’s what allows an abuser to maintain power: an abusive partner will always try to stay in control by offering some form of apology and improvement, such as saying “I’ll never do that again” or “I’ll go to therapy.”
You feel as though you have to agree to all demands
If you agree to sexual acts simply to avoid another fight, you are a victim of sexual violence. This may take different forms: harassment, intimidation, blackmail, brutality, etc., all making you feel as though you’re stuck in a situation you can’t get out of.
You’re afraid to say no
In a similar vein, you feel you can’t refuse your partner anything, whether it’s going out, doing them a favour, or any other type of demand. If you dare to refuse, the certain consequences are shouting, sulking, blackmail, or hurtful comments. You should know that this is not normal—it’s a form of psychological abuse.
You’re not in control of your finances
Your spending is strictly controlled. You are gradually stripped of your power to make decisions. Every expense incurs an interrogation. You have become financially dependent on your partner, making it more difficult for you to leave them. Financial or economic abuse is a little-known—but very real—form of abuse.
You feel isolated
It starts with just a few comments about your social life. Gradually the noose tightens and before you know it you are alone and isolated. This behaviour is motivated by jealousy and is in no way healthy. By doing this, your partner is damaging your self-esteem and your confidence, making you doubt yourself. Women’s shelters commonly welcome women who are completely alone, with no social network, in part because they haven’t been believed by those around them and in part because their partner has managed to entirely isolate them.
Your partner uses their spiritual beliefs to justify their behaviour
Sometimes, a violent partner will try to shift blame or responsibility using their spiritual beliefs. For example, they might say that their violent behaviour can be excused because a higher power has dictated how they should act. In fact, all forms of violence and abuse are unacceptable, and the abuser is the only one responsible for their actions.
You feel responsible when they sulk
An icy silence spreads through your home. Your partner refuses to speak to you or look at you, and is completely ignoring you. You may think, mistakenly, that your actions have caused this situation. In fact, regardless of the trigger, you’re suffering from a form of emotional abuse and you are not to blame. Abusers are very good at making you feel as though it’s your fault—this is a form of manipulation to get what they want.
You are constantly monitored
Cyber abuse is a very real phenomenon. If your partner goes through your phone, monitors your every move, checks your credit card statements, and demands to know where you are at any given time, it’s not normal. They may try to manipulate you, saying you shouldn’t have secrets from one another. However, everyone has the right to a private life. If this isn’t being respected, you’re suffering from domestic abuse.
Your situation comes to feel normal
Your partner has normalized the abuse you suffer to such an extent that you end up believing it is normal. You’re not experiencing any physical violence, so it can’t be that bad, can it? This couldn’t be further from the truth. Too many women suffering from psychological or verbal abuse still believe that they have to be physically attacked to be experiencing domestic violence. Violence can, in fact, take many forms, as you can see from this list.
Your partner is “always right”
Regardless of what you say, if you’re dealing with an abusive partner, you’ll never have the last word. Don’t like them raising their voice? It’s your fault—all you had to do was remember to buy bread. Feeling hurt by their insults? You’re too sensitive. Abusive partners always manage to justify their bad behaviour, making it impossible to have rational communication, however much you try.
Your opinions and ideas are belittled
Everything that you’re passionate about, everything that you love, that you think, and that you say is ridiculed, trampled on, and destroyed. You stop believing in anything or even knowing who you really are. This is how abusers maintain control. A loving partner that wants you to be truly happy should encourage and support you in the things you’re passionate about. If this is not the case, don’t question yourself. Your partner is the one with the problem, not you.
They control what you wear
At first, they just say that they prefer a natural look. Or that they don’t like those trousers or that skirt, that it doesn’t flatter you. As you trust your partner, you listen to them. The control gradually gets worse, and soon you no longer have the “right” to wear what you want, for fear of starting an argument. In a healthy relationship between two mature adults, you should be totally free in making your own choices.
The slightest thing can set them off
You’re walking on eggshells around them from morning until night, trying to avoid a fight. You try to put everything back in the right place, aiming for perfection, not daring to do anything wrong. In spite of all of your efforts, your partner will get angry and shout at the tiniest thing. Don’t blame yourself: even if you achieved absolute perfection, your partner would still find something to get mad about because the truth is that they’re simply looking for a pretext to unleash their foul abuse. It’s not your fault—the only person responsible for the abuse is them.
You are subjected to physical violence
Physical violence is a crime. It can take the form of punches, slaps, pushes, burns, or any other type of physical aggression. In the most serious of cases, it can be fatal. Your abuser may even go as far as to convince you that the violent episode was actually an accident. This is not true. Physical aggression is not the losing of control—it’s the taking of control.
Your partner may go to great lengths to maintain control. They may threaten to kill himself of herself, threaten to kill you, or even to take your children away. These threats should not be taken lightly, and if your partner appears to be acting on them, you should get help immediately.