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Recognize the signs of relationship abuse

Updated: May 5, 2021

Part 1/5

Physical abuse

At the start of a new relationship, it is not always easy to tell if it will later become abusive. In fact, many abusive people appear like ideal partners in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight and may emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.

Every relationship is different and domestic violence does not always look the same. One feature shared by most abusive relationships is that the abusive partner tries to establish or gain power and control through many different methods, at different moments.

Physical abuse: This involves hurting or trying to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, burning, grabbing, pinching, shoving, slapping, hair-pulling, biting, denying medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use, or using other physical force.

You may be in a physically abusive relationship if these or similar situations arise If your partner,

  • Damages property when angry (throws objects, punches walls, kicks doors, etc.).

  • Pushes, slaps, bites, kicks, or chokes you.

  • Abandons you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place.

  • Scares you by driving recklessly.

  • Uses a weapon to threaten or hurt you.

  • Forces you to leave your home.

  • Traps you in your home or keeps you from leaving.

  • Prevents you from calling the police or seeking medical attention.

  • Hurts your children, pets, and loved ones.

  • Uses physical force in sexual situations.

If any of these things are happening in your relationship, talk to someone. Without help, the abuse will continue. Making that first call to seek help is a courageous step.

Part 2/5

Emotional Abuse

This includes undermining a person's sense of self-worth. You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if these or similar situations arise If your partner:

-Calls you names, insults you

-Continually criticizes you

-Does not trust you

-Acts in a jealous or possessive manner

-Tries to isolate you from family or friends

-Belittles or bad mouths close friends and create friction

-Monitors where you go

- Selects or monitors with whom you spend your time

-Does not want you to work

-Controls finances or refuses to share money

-Punishes you by withholding affection

-Expects you to ask permission

-Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family

-Hurts your pets or damaged things you like or posses

-Humiliates you in any way


If any of these things are happening in your relationship, talk to someone. Without help, the abuse will continue. Emotional scars at times take more time to heal than physical scars.

Part 3/5

Sexual abuse:

It involves forcing or coercing a victim to do something sexually, which can range from unwanted kissing or touching to rape.

Physical abuse can leave scars, broken bones, bruises, and prolonged healing time. And Psychological and Emotional abuse can result in an array of invisible scars that have survivors doubting their own instincts and which lower their self-esteem and make them untrusting of others for years to come.

Sexual abuse can combine the worst of all these. Long-term symptoms of sexual abuse can include physical ailments, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and unmitigated fear of continued abuse. Sexual abuse is also the most prominent yet less reported form of Intimate partner violence (IPV). IPV is domestic violence by a current or former spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner.

Statistics of Sexual Abuse (The United States)

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experience some form of sexual violence, other than rape, at some point in their lives. Most female victims of completed rape, nearly 80 percent, were raped before the age of 25, while more than a quarter of male victims experienced their first rape when they were age 10 or younger. It also shows that 1 in 10, or 11.1 million women in the United States alone, have been raped by an intimate partner in their lifetime. One in 71 men have been raped, and more than half say they were raped by an intimate partner.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 40 and 45 percent of women with abusive partners will be sexually assaulted by their abuser during the course of their relationship. Additionally, more than half of all women raped by intimate partners were sexually assaulted more than once by that same partner.

Of course, sexual abuse doesn’t only occur in opposite-gender relationships. According to 2010 findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of domestic violence among gay and heterosexual individuals are nearly identical, and even a higher number of lesbians will be victims of domestic violence.

Four Different Types

-A complete sexual act, or sexual intercourse.

-An incomplete sexual act, where sex is attempted but is unsuccessful.

-Abusive sexual contact, which involves touching or hurting sexual or other private areas.

-Sexual abuse without contact. This is intentional and unwanted exposure to obnoxious sights (such as someone exposing themselves to a victim or forcing a victim to watch pornography), or verbal sexual assaults.

You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:

-Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships.

-Wants you to dress in a sexual way.

-Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names.

-Has ever forced or manipulated you into having sex or performing sexual acts.

-Holds you down during sex.

-Demands sex when you are sick, tired, or after beating you.

-Hurts you with weapons or objects during sex.

-Involves other people in sexual activities with you.

-Ignores your feelings regarding sex.

Part 4/5

Reproductive abuse or Reproductive coercion

Sexual abuse can also take the form of an abuser forbidding their partner from using birth control, often with the intent to conceive, another form of power and control. Or, an abuser may force or pressured a survivor to end a pregnancy. These tactics are sometimes referred to as reproductive abuse or reproductive coercion.

Other tactics of sexual abusers can include preventing their partner from protecting themselves against STDs, refusing to use condoms, coercing their partner to perform sex acts in front of children, taking advantage of their partner sexually when their partner is on drugs, inebriated, sleeping, or unconscious.


This involves any pattern of behavior that serves no legitimate purpose and is intended to harass, annoy, or terrorize the victim. Typical stalking activities include repeated telephone calls, unwelcome letters or gifts by mail, surveillance at work, home, and other places that the victim is known to frequent. Stalking usually escalates.

Marital Rape

Marital rape is a serious form of violence and an often-present component of domestic violence is illegal in all 50 states in the USA. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), marital rape occurs when a spouse forces to take part in sex acts without consent. This includes any unwanted intercourse or penetration obtained by force, the threat of force, or when the partner is unable to consent. RAINN says research shows that marital rape can be equally, if not more, emotionally and physically traumatizing than rape by a stranger.

Psychological abuse

This involves causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, or children; destruction of pets and property; “mind games”; or forcing isolation from friends, family, school, and/or work.

Financial or economic abuse

This involves making or attempting to make a person financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding access to money, and/or forbidding attendance at school or employment.

Spiritual abuse

Also referred to as religious abuse, this involves a partner not allowing you to practice your moral or religious beliefs. It can include humiliation or harassment as a means of control, forcing a victim to give up their culture or values that are important to them. Spiritual abuse can be used by religious leaders to instill fear or guilt into a victim, coercing them to behave a certain way.

If you are abused and notice the pattern escalating, then it may get out of hand abruptly. Abuse intensifies from verbal, to physical and emotional. In most cases speaking with survivors and advocates dealing with domestic violence, it has come to light that, Escalation is a choice abusers make when they feel like they’re losing control of the survivor or when they want to send a very clear message: they hold the power in the relationship.

When abuse escalates, an abuser is basically showing that they have a new way to exert power over a survivor. The abuser is becoming more emboldened. They are moving on to the next phase of their plan to trap a survivor.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, reach out. In most countries and states, there is help and support available and trained Domestic Violence advocates are there to assist.





pc: Unsplash



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