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Recognising an abusive relationship

Recognising abuse isn't always easy...

There are many forms of abuse, some are clear and some are less easy to identify.

Emotional, psychological or verbal abuse:
involves undermining a person’s self-esteem by constantly criticising them, belittling their abilities, calling them names or other forms of verbal abuse, damaging their relationship with children or preventing them from seeing their friends and family. Emotional violence involves instilling fear through intimidation, threatening to physically harm oneself, one’s partner or children, destroying pets and property, engaging in “mind games” or forcing the person to isolate him/herself from friends, family, school and/or work.

Financial or economic abuse:
involves making or attempting to make a person financially dependent by exercising total control over his or her financial resources, denying access to money and/or prohibiting the person from attending school or working.

involves any type of behaviour that has no legitimate purpose and is intended to harass, annoy or terrorise the victim. Typical stalking activities include repeated phone calls, unwanted letters or gifts in the mail, surveillance at work, at home and in other places the victim is known to frequent.

Sexual abuse:
this includes forcing a partner to participate in a sexual act without their consent, touching or exposing them unwillingly, revenge pornography, pressuring you about contraceptive or abortion choices.

Physical abuse:

this is any unwanted physical contact with you. It includes hurting or trying to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, burning, grabbing, pinching, pushing, slapping, pulling hair, biting, denying medical attention or forcing alcohol and/or drugs, or other forms of physical force.

Discernment is not always as obvious as you think, especially when you are directly involved. To help you, here are some signs developed by the United Nations to clearly identify domestic violence in everyday life and actions.

The following questions can help you to better identify an abusive relationship:

  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your friends or family?
  • Put you down or your accomplishments?
  • Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions?
  • Use intimidation or threats to gain compliance?
  • Tell you that you are nothing without them?
  • Treat you roughly—grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you?
  • Call you several times a night or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
  • Check your cell phone or email without permission?
  • Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
  • Blame you for how they feel or act?
  • Pressure you sexually for things you aren’t ready for?
  • Make you feel like there is “no way out” of the relationship?
  • Prevent you from doing things you want – like spending time with friends or family?
  • Try to keep you from leaving after a fight or leave you somewhere after a fight to “teach you a lesson”?
  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner may behave?
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behaviour?
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want to do?
  • Stay with your partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you broke up?

If you recognise yourself in any of these situations, it’s time to open up and find support, without help the abuse will continue. Taking the first step to find help is a courageous step. There are online resources and local shelters ready to assist you:

1. Click on the Sophia icon in the bottom right corner of this website.
2. Type HELP
3. Tell Sophia in which country you currently are in and she will show you the support available to you there.