How to recognize domestic violence

Domestic abuse happens in many forms and is often difficult to recognize, especially when the parties involved are usually both trying to hide it. Nevada defines domestic battery as any type of battery in the form of force or violence that occurs within a domestic relationship. When referring to domestic abuse, many tend to focus on domestic violence. Indeed, there are many ways in which one person within a domestic relationship can control or dominate the other.

An abuser will use any means necessary to keep you under their control, including guilt, shame, fear, intimidation, and violence. Often, shame and guilt are why victims don’t come forward when the abuse starts to happen. Victims may also feel that if they reach out for help and their abuser is acquitted, there may be retaliation. Here are a few tips on how to recognize domestic violence.

What Is Domestic Violence?

A woman with a bruised lip
Image via Flickr by effendiian via CC BY 2.0

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of ethnic background, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, educational background, or gender. It often starts as verbal assault or threats and then escalates over time, including a slap across the face, a kick in the stomach, or a punch in the nose. While the physical injury is an immediate and obvious danger when it comes to domestic violence, the psychological and emotional effects can also be severe. You can lose your sense of self-worth, feel alone and helpless, and even experience depression or anxiety due to the situation.

Domestic abuse can include emotional, financial, verbal, and sexual abuse. An abuser may withhold affectionate touch or words to punish you or control you. Your partner may govern all spending, providing you with a meager allowance to buy clothes and food for the family. An abuser may continuously cut you down with name-calling or telling you how worthless you are to them. A domestic partner may force themselves on you sexually, and even if you’re married, they do not have that right at any time. While domestic abuse isn’t necessarily considered domestic violence, it’s just as important to recognize the signs.

What Are Some Signs of Domestic Violence and Abuse?

Domestic violence and abuse can have some signs to look for; however, it’s important to note that just because you see one or more of these signs does not necessarily mean abuse is present. These red flags or signs are worth knowing because you might be able to help a friend, family member, or even yourself in an abusive relationship.

Physical Signs

Physical abuse is typically the easiest to recognize because the victim will have physical injuries, such as bruises, cuts, broken bones, busted lips, sprained wrists, or black eyes. Victims may try to cover up such markings with long sleeves, makeup, or sunglasses. If you notice these types of coverups in unlikely situations, such as long sleeves on a 90-degree summer day, you may want to take note and reach out to the potential victim.

Emotional Signs

Domestic abuse can take a tremendous emotional toll on the victim, creating a sense of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness. The victim may believe that they are stuck and will never escape from their abuser. Signs of emotional abuse can be harder to recognize and include:

  • Inability to relax due to a constant high level of alertness.
  • Changes in sleep habits.
  • Loss of interest in activities.
  • Appearing fearful or scared.
  • Agitation, anxiety, and/or apprehension.
  • Developing an alcohol or drug problem.
  • Appearing meek and apologetic.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Talking about or attempting to commit suicide.

Again, just because you notice one or more of these signs does not automatically equal abuse, but they are common red flags.

What Are Some Signs of Control by an Abuser?

Domestic abuse is about having control over your domestic partner. The abuser wants to be able to manipulate and control the victim in all areas of their life. Examples of signs to watch for if a domestic partner is controlling you, a friend, or family member include:

  • Withholding access to a vehicle or other mode of transportation.
  • Saying their partner is possessive or jealous or that they’re constantly accused of having an affair.
  • Needing to ask permission of their partner to go anywhere or participate in any social event.
  • Having little or no money available to them, including access to a bank account or credit card. Also, having to account for every penny they spend through receipts.
  • Constant texts and calls from their partner, as if they’re being tracked. Their partner constantly needs to know who they’re with, where they are, and what they’re doing.

An abuser will go to great lengths to maintain control over your actions and thoughts; it’s what makes them feel superior to you.

What Can You Do if You’re Experiencing Domestic Violence or Abuse?

If you recognize that you’re a victim of domestic violence or abuse, know that the abuse is not your fault and you’re not alone. Help is available if you’re experiencing physical harm, harassment, or abuse from your partner. Steps to getting help include:

  • Find support. It’s essential to connect with an advocate who can provide you with referrals, support, and available resources. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), chat with a person online, or even text START to 88788 to get help.
  • Plan for your safety. Plan how to get out of your house quickly if needed. Put together an overnight bag and keep it somewhere accessible and safe. Tell your neighbors about the abuse and to report it if they hear anything. Talk to your children about how to stay safe. Have phone numbers for resources such as the National Domestic Violence hotline or any local shelters stored in a safe place.
  • Work on an exit plan. Share your thoughts with a family member or friend so that they can help you find housing, file for divorce, or contact a lawyer.

Helping anyone in a domestic violence or abuse situation is delicate and should be approached with care and caution. By knowing some of the signs of abuse, you may feel more comfortable helping a victim of domestic violence or abuse or even just lending a sympathetic ear.