Recognizing the Signs of Abuse and Getting Help

If you have asked yourself “How do I know if I am abused? This doesn’t feel right to me. Am I crazy?” you are not alone.

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone and is no respecter of persons. Abuse happens to females and males of all ages; Abusers are people of every income level, education level, and intelligence.
Abuse perpetuates from one generation to the next, and if you experience a relationship that just makes you feel bad, there’s a good chance that abuse or neglect is prevalent in that person’s experience. It’s common for abuse to happen behind closed doors so the issues stay behind closed doors, and is never shared with friends or family due to shame. Plus, the victim doesn’t know who to trust or where to turn for help. First, it’s not your fault. Abuse is never justified. If you are concerned that people will judge you, or, you feel you will be blamed for being abused (by an abuser!), it’s understandable, but it’s just not true. Don’t wait until it’s too late and continue to subject yourself to further emotional, psychological and physical abuse. You are a beautiful child of God, who is special and unique.

Does this resonate with you? Do you feel you are in immediate danger? If so, please call 911. If you know you are being abused, please don’t wait! The first step is to reach out beyond yourself and ask for help. It’s the best decision you will make. Don’t try and rationalize how it will all work out if you remove yourself from a terrible situation, it’s just the right thing to do. Please know there is enough support to help you on a path of recovery. If you are pregnant or have children, you must act in their best interest too, and prevent them from harm.

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline | | 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) |TTY 1-800-787-3224
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline | | 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • Love Is Respect | | 1-866-331-9474 | TTY 1-866-331-8453 | Text: LOVEIS to 22522
  • Chat Online:

Unhealthy relationships are based upon power and control. This can include coercion, threats, intimidation, withholding, put-downs, isolation, etc. Abuse is not just physical. Abuse can be emotional, verbal, physical, financial, sexual, psychological, and social.

Types of Abuse

Some people experience mental abuse, some experience only physical abuse, while others experience both. Abuse takes many forms but it stems from psychological (mental and emotional) not physical. It can be seen through behaviors, words, attitudes, and actions. Recognizing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship are the first steps to ending it. Positive and healthy relationships are made up of respect, honesty, trust, and communication. Healthy partners don’t make use feel ashamed, shoot down our ideas as bad or less than, and they don’t repeatedly hurt our feelings until we become numb to their negative comments. Healthy relationships foster connection and understanding, and they recognize our individuality, some that you can lose if you are abused.

Important Questions

Do you feel you have open conversations with your partner? Do you feel safe sharing your feelings? Open communication begins with both sides listening to the other person’s opinions and accepting that they may have differing opinions while not always agreeing. Healthy relationships meet in the middle and find an agreeable outcome. With safe communication, there will be compromises. Being able to say no, gives freedom to both parties and also shows sensitivity to each other’s emotional and physical needs.

How do you feel about your partnership? In your romantic relationship, do you feel like an equal? Do you share responsibilities around the house and in day-to-day life? What about when decisions need to be made? In an equal partnership, both people should be contributing to daily life and feel comfortable making decisions outside of the relationship.

Are you safe? Safe can mean many things. The context of safe can apply to all areas of daily life, respect of one’s space, non-violent communication, physical, emotional, and sexual safety, and accepting ‘no’ as an answer even if it is not what you wanted to hear. Try and consider both sides of the situation and keep the other person’s feelings in mind at all times.

Where do the boundaries lie in the relationship? Any healthy relationship requires space. Spending all your time with your all-time favorite person can still cause friction. Make sure you are getting time away from one another with your own friends or family members. Maybe you have separate computers and can maintain privacy with your personal technology or just simply set aside time for you each to have separate hobbies or activities.

There are many signs of an abusive relationship, and fear of your partner is the most telling. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

The Women’s Advocates at and Birthright has put together a list to help you identify abuse in your own relationship. Does your partner do the following:

  • Physically abuses you (hitting, choking, kicking, squeezing, pinching, twisting arms, restraining, etc.).
  • Controls your money and/or withholds money.
  • Does not allow you to have a job.
  • Discourages you from seeing friends and family.
  • Criticizes you often.
  • Yells or uses violent words.
  • Makes threats to you or your children.
  • Uses threats or intimidates you to get what they want.
  • Uses stress, jealousy, and passion to justify their behavior.
  • Uses name calling.
  • Plays mind games on you or your loved ones.
  • Destroys your stuff.
  • Pressures or forces you to do something you don’t want to.
  • Pressures or forces you to have sex.
  • Pressures you to have an abortion.
  • Pressures you, even when you say “no”.
  • Abandons you when you are in areas you don’t know very well.
  • Threatens to kill you or themselves.
  • Threatens to take something from you
  • Threatens to harm someone who is important to you.
  • Denies any kind abuse toward you, even when you bring it up.
  • Makes you doubt yourself or feel crazy.
  • Doesn’t allow you any privacy and watches you closely
  • Tries to stop you from working or attending school/events.
  • Puts down important people in your life and encourages you to stay away from them.
  • Controls what you wear, who you see, where you go.
  • Ignores you when you don’t do or say what they want?
  • Takes away “privileges” when the partner is disappointed or they don’t get what they want
  • Takes your away belongings from you, hides them or throws them away.

If you recognize any of these symptoms in your own relationship, REACH OUT. Talk to a trusted friend or advisor, or, you can call our free hotline anytime, day or night, and we can help. Birthright is the warm, calm, supportive friend that welcomes you, listens, and helps you find the strength within yourself. We hope to celebrate your joy and lessen your pain. Our Main Office number is (360) 694-8156 or you can call anytime After Hours at (800) 550-4900.

We also want to mention a useful tool for you and your family. It is a completely free app called Aspire. Aspire is a news app that has a hidden use. You can turn on Location Services to assist 911 in getting to your location, and add people who can come to you in a snap if you are feeling threatened. The Get Help Section allows you to add, view and select trusted contact(s) to send notifications to in case of emergency and also suggests helpful organizations near you. Most importantly, you can triple tap the toolbar anytime in order to alert your trusted contacts that you’re in an emergency situation. The app also includes a section where you can find links and articles about domestic violence and how people are affected by it and includes a safety feature where you can tap the X in the top right corner at any time and it will take you to a random news article.