How to Recognize Domestic Abuse

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There are several types of abuse. Some are more common and obvious than others. No matter what, domestic abuse is not your fault, and you can get out.

There are several types of abuse, and throughout the month of March 2019 you’ll be able to find articles on the following types of abuse:

But first, let’s define what “abuse” actually means.

The word comes from Latin and Old French words that mean “misused” and “to use wrongly.” Basically, something’s happening that shouldn’t be happening! It’s wrong.

If nothing else, the one thing you should always remember is that abuse is NOT your fault. 

Domestic Abuse

When most people think of “domestic abuse” what they’re really thinking is “domestic violence” and don’t think it counts unless there’s physical violence involved.

But that’s not the case at all.

Domestic abuse is not just physical, but that’s the most obvious form.

A husband slapping his wife when he’s angry. A wife beating up on her husband in public.

Both of these are domestic abuse, yet many people don’t recognize the second one as being such. But there are other facets to domestic abuse that don’t involve physical violence.

What Is It?

Domestic abuse is also known as intimate partner violence, and it’s all about power and control. In the early stages of some relationships, it may be impossible to tell if your partner will become abusive. They might be experts at concealing the red flags and wait until you’re too entrenched with them to believe that you can leave them.

The term “domestic abuse” is also a catchall term for behaviors and patterns of abuse between partners that can also include all the other types of abuse. Often physical in nature, domestic abuse is commonly referred to as “domestic violence” and minimizes the other facets such as:

Because most of these bullet points have their own articles, let’s focus on the two that don’t: physical abuse and stalking/harassment.

Physical Abuse & Violence

This is what most people think of when they hear “domestic abuse.” They think of the domestic violence calls that police respond to—of neighbors reporting the sounds of a fight next door, a woman attempting to cover up her bruises with makeup, or a man brushing off his black eye as an unlucky encounter with a doorframe when everyone knows his wife did it.

Children get caught up in parental fights by trying to stop Dad from hitting Mom. Oftentimes women don’t know any other reality. They believe it’s their fault that their spouse is acting this way.

Men whose partners strike them are reluctant to say anything about it. After all, if he calls the police, he might be the one arrested instead.

As a society, we’re conditioned to look for signs of physical violence before calling it abuse. Sometimes well-meaning friends will listen to a story from an abused woman and tentatively ask, “Did he hit you?” without realizing that abuse does not have to be physical in order to be damaging.

Stalking & Harassment

What about that bad date who proposed marriage before dessert even arrived? Or the Tinder match who professed her undying love for you after two days of texting? Or the creepy old high school acquaintance in the bar who keeps buying you drinks and you can’t tell if he’s slipped a roofie in them?

When people keep coming back without respecting the “no” you’ve already told them—sometimes multiple times—it’s harassment. Showing up at your workplace and blowing up your phone with hundreds of texts and voicemails a day is stalking.

Both genders experience it—it’s never just one or the other. Women by far speak up the most about it, but don’t be fooled—women can stalk and harass just as much as men can. What’s worse, women can be sneakier about it.

There are several types of abuse. Some are more common and obvious than others. No matter what, domestic abuse is not your fault, and you can get out.

How to Recognize It

Partners should never be hitting one another.

It can start as an “accident.” When a partner erupts in anger over something you thought insignificant or unimportant, and he or she hits you in their rage. Later, when they’ve “calmed down” they’ll say they didn’t mean it and apologize.

The first strike should be the last and only strike—both physically and metaphorically.

There should never be a second chance for partners who hit.

In fact, it’s one of my core boundaries. Any strike at all (that I know is not accidental) would be a relationship-ender. There is no coming back from physical violence.

Some people have angry personalities. I get it. Anger runs in my own family as well, but that’s not an excuse for becoming violent. All it takes is a modicum of self-control and not striking another human being or animal.

What’s interesting is that domestic abuse can be genetic. It can “run in the family.” Victims of domestic abuse as children can grow into adults that also precipitate domestic abuse. If they were sexually abused, they too are at risk of becoming sexual abusers themselves.

That doesn’t mean that everyone who is abused as a child will grow up to become an abuser themselves. Oftentimes those survivors become advocates and shed light on what abuse actually is and how it affects our society.

What to Do About It

Get out. Assemble all your important documents to avoid the likelihood of financial gridlock and get out. It will never get better by staying. You’ll need these to start rebuilding your life:

  • Birth certificates (yours and your children’s)
  • Marriage certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Passports and driver’s licenses
  • Bank statements or other statements/bills in your name (these can be used as proof of residency in certain municipalities)
  • Joint- and single-ownership documents that have your name on them

Go to a trusted friend or family member. Flee across the country if you need to. Whatever you need to do to get out, do it.

Research and reach out to local domestic violence shelters or a battered women’s shelter.

When you’re in a position to do so, find a therapist or psychiatrist who can help you work through the emotions of your victimhood. They can help you piece back your life and your sanity much better than you could ever do so alone.

Resources & Helplines

Some of the research I did for this article came from The Hotline, which is the website for The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Their resources and expertise are far deeper and expansive than this article could ever be, so if you need help, please check out their website.

Please check out DrugRecovery.com’s Domestic Violence resource page, where you can find even more helpful information. Recovery Village also has a good article on Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse.

You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

You can also call The Center for Family Justice hotline, 203-333-2233

Call to Action

Domestic abuse is real and happens every day. Do you think you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse? Reach out to them or to someone who can help. You might be saving their life—or yours. Join the discussion below.

Want a PDF version of all installments of this Abuse Series packaged together for easy reference?

Download your copy now!

3 thoughts on “How to Recognize Domestic Abuse”

  1. Yes! finally, someone is touching on this. as a survivor of domestic violence and emotional abuse, financial abuse went hand in hand with my experience and we don’t have enough coverage of this domestic Abuse as well.

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