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Signs of an abusive relationship

There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner - constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up - chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive.

To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more "yes" answers, the more likely it is that you're in an abusive relationship:

Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings
Your Partner's Belittling Behavior

Do you:

  • feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
  • avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • feel that you can't do anything right for your partner?
  • believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • wonder if you're the one who is crazy?
  • feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Does your partner:

  • humiliate or yell at you?
  • criticize you and put you down?
  • treat you so badly that you're embarrassed for your friends and family to see?
  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
  • blame you for their own abusive behavior?
  • see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your Partner's Violent Behavior or Threats
Your Partner's Controlling Behavior

Does your partner:

  • have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • force you to have sex?
  • destroy your belongings?

Does your partner:

  • act excessively jealous and possessive?
  • control where you go or what you do?
  • keep you from seeing your friends and family?
  • limit your access to money, the phone or the car?
  • constantly check up on you?

The incidents of physical abuse seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard others talk about. There isn't a "better" or "worse" form of physical abuse; you can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example.
The incidents of physical abuse only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your partner has injured you once, it is likely they will continue to physically assault you.
The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and partner in exchange for not being assaulted!
There has not been any physical violence. Many people are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.

Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as their possession.

Humiliation – An abuser will do everything they can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.

Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on them, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. They may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.

Threats – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. They may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.

Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don't obey, there will be violent consequences.

Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. They will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, their violent and abusive behavior is your fault.

If you answered "yes" to many of the questions above, you may be in an abusive relationship. Remember that you have many options. The Campus Victim Advocate is available to assist you by answering questions, providing support and connecting you with resources.

*Adapted from helpguide.org

Local Hotlines

24-Hr Sexual Assault Hotline
(920) 722-8150
24-Hr Domestic Abuse Hotline
(920) 235-5998

Contact Information
Name: Stephanie Kitzerow
Phone: (920) 424-2061
Email: kitzeros@uwosh.edu
Hours: M-F: 8:30am-4:30pm
Office: Student Success Center, Suite 240
(Inside the Counseling Center)
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