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There are many different types of abuse that can take place within relationships. While many people are only aware of violent physical abuse, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as financial exploitation and neglect, are perhaps even more prevalent and just as hurtful. Nearly any type of relationship can be abusive: parent-child relationships, marriages and other romantic relationships, caretaking relationships, working relationships, and so on. It is important to be aware of possible signs of abuse in order to recognize and avoid abusive relationships in your life and in the lives of those you care about.
Signs of physical abuse include frequent injuries, which may be explained by the victim as accidents, and the use of clothing to cover up signs of abuse. For example, the victim may wear dark glasses indoors or at night in order to hide a black eye. Frequent and unexplained absences from work or social obligations may also point to a physically abusive relationship.
Emotional and psychological signs of abuse include low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, especially when such symptoms did not exist before the beginning of the relationship. A person who loses touch with family and friends and rarely appears in public without his or her partner may be the victim of abuse. Other warning signs include frequent calls to check in with one's partner, or abnormally frequent incoming calls from one's partner, a fear of angering one's partner, and a tendency to agree with everything he or she does and says. A victim of abuse may also talk about the abuser's jealousy or temper.
If you notice signs of abuse in someone you know, it is essential to make him or her aware of your concern, support, and willingness to help. Let him or her know that you are available to talk to and provide help whenever he or she is ready. At the same time, if the person is unreceptive, do be forceful, or you may be shut out altogether. If you suspect abuse of a child or an elderly person it is important to report your suspicions to the authorities.
It is especially important to be aware of signs of abuse in your own relationships. If you feel afraid of your partner, helpless, or emotionally numb, you may be a victim of abuse. Feeling like it is impossible to please your partner or like you deserve mistreatment are other warning signs.
If you notice that your partner constantly checks up on you, belittles or humiliates you, has a bad temper or is extremely jealous, makes it difficult for you to spend time with your family and friends, or limits your access to money or transportation, you are very likely being abused. More extreme signs include physically violent behavior, direct threats of violence or suicide, forced sexual activity, and destruction of your property. It is also common for abusers to blame their victims for the abuse.
If you notice signs of the abuser in yourself, whether towards a domestic partner or towards someone in your care, it is essential to seek help. To promote healthy relationships, make sure to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy and seek treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and other psychological issues. If you are a caregiver, ask family and friends to help out with your duties if you need a break.