Warning Signs of Abuse

If you take a look at the women around you, one in every four of them will experience some sort of domestic violence in her lifetime. However, many people do not realize they are being abused. Domestic violence can take on many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and economic or financial abuse. Just because you are not battered and bruised does not mean that you are not being abused.

The most obvious sign of abuse is fear of one’s partner. The fear is often derived from physical and/or sexual abuse, involving punches, slaps, kicks, forced sex, or any other act of violence that may physically injure the victim. Even if the incidence is a minor violent act or if it only occurred once or twice, it is still abuse. Although the physical violence may stop if the victim goes into a passive mode, the abuse is still present, but has shifted from physical to psychological abuse.

Emotional abuse is often minimized and overlooked and may be hard to recognize. Yet, it is more common than people think and can be carried out in several different ways; verbal attacks, isolation from friends and family, intimidation to cause obedience, controlling behaviors, threats of physical violence, dominance, and humiliation are among the most common forms. The perpetrator may also deny and blame the victim for the abusive behavior.

An abuser’s goal is to control his or her victim, and many times he or she uses money to do so. Economic or financial abuse is a subtle form of emotional abuse. The abuser often attempts to restrict the victim’s income and expenses by stealing or withholding the victim’s money or credit cards, sabotaging the victim’s job, preventing him or her from working outside the home, or in any other way controlling the victim’s finances.

Domestic abuse is a cyclic behavior in which the abuser goes through different stages, all building up to the violent act. After the abusive incident has occurred, the relationship goes back to “normal”, just to start the cycle all over again. What many people do not know is that victims, who leave an abusive relationship, run a higher risk of being killed by their abuser, than victims who stay in the relationship. However, the dangers of staying in this kind of relationships without seeking help are very real. Ninety-nine percent of all the women who died as a result of domestic violence from 2005 to mid-2006 never stayed in a shelter, and 95 percent had no contact with a certified domestic violence center within five years of their murder.

If you witness any warning signs of abuse in your own relationship, or in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously. People who are being abused may go along with everything their partner say or do; talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness; have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”; dress in covering clothes; rarely appear in public without their partner; and show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. These are only a few examples of the behaviors a domestic violence victim may suffer from.

Warning signs of abusive behavior

Physical Abuse

  • Slapping, hitting, choking, kicking, shoving, shaking, punching
  • Throwing objects
  • Threats of violence
  • Physical restraint
  • Spitting
  • Threatening to commit suicide

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing sexual acts
  • Forcing overly aggressive or violent sexual acts
  • Coerced sex through manipulation or threat
  • Harassing e-mails or other communication containing sexual content
  • Forcing a partner to watch pornography or other sexual acts
  • Denying contraception or protection

Emotional Abuse

  • Name calling, insults, verbal attacks
  • Humiliation
  • Destroying keepsakes
  • Harming pets
  • Making the partner feel guilty for the abuse
  • Making her/him feel bad about themselves
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Playing mind games

Economic Abuse

  • Not allowing a partner to work
  • Financial isolation by limiting access to money
  • Controlling financial decisions without partner’s consent
  • Forcing partner to use money for the abuser’s needs while neglecting other family and victim’s needs

No one should live in fear of the one they love. If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, Hubbard House can help. Please call the Hubbard House domestic violence hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or 904-314-3114.


Hubbard House is a nationally recognized leader in domestic violence intervention. Founded in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 5,000 women, children and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic child care, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit www.hubbardhouse.org to learn more.

By Vicky Krook

2 thoughts on “Warning Signs of Abuse

    • You should never feel that any form of abuse happening to you is your fault. Please call and speak to a domestic violence advocate – the national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-7233.

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