Your partner doesn’t have to hit you for it to be abuse.

Domestic violence can take many forms, and it’s not always evident when it begins to happen in your relationship.  Abuse usually starts small, making it hard to recognize it for what it truly is, and leaves you with a nagging feeling that something is not quite right with yourself, your partner, and/or your relationship.  It’s harder to identify when you are living in the thick of it because the effects of domestic violence, along with your love for your partner, leaves you feeling confused, hurting, and hoping for change.

An abuser isn’t abusive 24/7. They usually demonstrate positive character traits most of the time. That’s what makes the abuse so confusing when it happens, and what makes leaving so much more difficult.
— Miya Yamanouchi

What is domestic violence?

Most people think of bruises, black eyes, and broken bones when they think of domestic violence.  That is physical violence and a reality for many individuals.  Physical abuse can also include burning, choking, pulling your hair, pinning you down, or using a weapon on you. 

Other, more subtle forms of abuse often appear long before physical abuse begins.  These include financial abuse, sexual abuse, and/or emotional abuse.  Emotional abuse includes:

  • Criticism, public shaming, and intentionally embarrassing you
  • Name-calling and insults disguised as “jokes”
  • Repeatedly pointing out your mistakes, blame-shifting, and making you feel crazy
  • Withholding affection and emotional support, or giving you the silent treatment
  • Isolation, checking your phone or computer, and making you check-in to your partner
  • Unreasonable demands or expectations; refusing to be pleased with you
  • Threats of physical or emotional abandonment
  • Picking fights, making threats, stalking, or creating chaos
  • Breaking objects
  • Threatening to harm or harming your children or animals

It’s normal to be unsure if you are experiencing abuse. 

Some abuse doesn’t leave marks and it’s hard to believe that someone you love would intentionally hurt you.  If you are still unsure, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Are you afraid to tell your partner about certain things because you are afraid they will get angry?
  • Does your partner make you feel bad about yourself, or make you feel worthless or stupid?
  • Do you find yourself avoiding your family and friends out of fear of their reactions about your partner?
  • Do you find yourself frequently defending our partner?
  • Do you think that you are the one with the problem and that you need to change yourself to make your partner happy?
  • Does your partner make fun of your achievements rather than celebrate them with you?
  • Do you ever feel trapped in your relationship or worthless if you were ever without your relationship?
  • Does your partner control what you do, who you see, or how you spend money?
  • Does your partner ever tell you “If you didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have to act this way?”
  • Do you put them above everything else, including yourself?
  • Do you ever experience anger or rage toward your partner, yourself, or others?
  • Do you think that you deserve to be treated badly?
  • Do you ever believe that if you work hard enough, your partner will become the same caring person you fell in love with?
  • Do you ever wonder if you could ever be loved by anyone again?

You are not alone. 

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence – women or men; those in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.  Just like you, most remain silent out of fear of judgment and shame.  Many have successfully broken from these toxic relationship patterns.  Taking steps toward healthy change is possible.

It’s not your fault.  We understand, and we can help.