With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s important to remember that it CAN happen to any of us and we must all be able to recognize some of the red flags of abusive behaviors.

True or False: One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States. (1)

True or False: Three to four million women in the United States are beaten in their homes each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, or male lovers. (2)

True or False: Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. (3)

Sadly, the answer to all of these questions is True. These are women (and men) we know. They are members of our families, our friends, our neighbors and sometimes ourselves. Domestic violence isn’t something we want to talk about at cocktail parties. It isn’t something anyone wants to think could ever happen to them. But the truth is, it can. Recognizing some of the red flags of abusive behavior can be what saves you or a loved one from becoming a victim of abuse.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, some of the main red flags to look for when assessing whether a person is possibly abusive, include:

  • Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and time spent away
  • Accusing the victim of cheating
  • Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members
  • Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs
  • Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money for expenses
  • Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing
  • Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do
  • Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.
  • Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)
  • Preventing the victim from making their own decisions
  • Telling the victim that they are a bad parent or threatening to hurt, kill, or take away their children
  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved ones, or pets
  • Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons
  • Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with
  • Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging birth control
  • Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
  • Preventing the victim from working or attending school, harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all night so they perform badly at their job or in school
  • Destroying the victim’s property

In my work as a domestic violence victim’s advocate, I often heard, “he’s doing this because he loves me so much. He wants me to spend all of my time with HIM because he loves me. He wants to check my phone because he’s so into me. He puts me down because he wants me to a be a better person.” This behavior isn’t love. This behavior is controlling and domestic violence is primarily about one’s need to have power and control over another person. And love doesn’t hurt. Let me repeat that; love doesn’t hurt. Please trust your instinct if it is telling you something isn’t right. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help and get the right help. Many well-meaning friends and family members will tell you it’s normal or that you should stay for the family. However, whatever you decide, know that it DOES get progressively worse and without specific domestic violence treatment, the behavior rarely changes, despite what they may tell you. If and when you decide to leave an abusive relationship, please speak to a trained domestic violence advocate and create a safety plan beforehand, unless you are in an emergent situation that requires you to leave immediately. A victim is often at their highest level of threat once they leave. Having a safety plan in place to ensure you are protected is crucial.

Computer Use Can Be Monitored

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7,
call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at
1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

(1) Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1991

(2) (“Women and Violence,” Hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, August 29 and December 11, 1990, Senate Hearing 101-939, pt. 1, p. 12.

(3) (“Violence Against Women, A Majority Staff Report,” Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 102nd Congress, October 1992, p.3.)

Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash