Do you ever feel like your relationship isn't what it used to be? The dynamics are off, and something's not quite right, but you can't seem to put your finger on it? You might be in an abusive relationship. Abuse can take many forms – physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse all happen within relationships. Understanding what types of abuse are present in your relationship is the first step toward getting help.
Read on to learn more about the different levels of abusive relationships and how they can affect individuals psychologically and physically.
Physical abuse is the type of abuse most people think about when they hear the word "abuse." It includes physical violence, such as hitting, pushing, or restraining someone against their will. It can also include blocking someone's path so they can't leave a room or argument or intimidating someone so they don't leave. Physical abuse is a form of control and can leave lasting emotional and psychological scars.
Emotional abuse is often harder to detect than physical abuse because it doesn't leave marks on the body. It involves verbal attacks, insults, threats, humiliation, manipulation, and guilt-tripping. Emotional abusers are usually very good at disguising their behavior as "concern" or "love," which makes it challenging to recognize when it is happening to you. Emotional abusers also tend to isolate their victims by limiting their contact with friends and family, so they depend more on them for love and support.
Se*xual abuse is any sexual contact that is forced or unwanted. This can include ra*pe or other se*xual assault, coercion, or pressure to engage in se*xual activity.
Financial abuse is any behavior that controls or limits a partner's access to money. This can include giving a partner an allowance, preventing them from working or influencing all financial decision-making.
Digital abuse is any abusive behavior that occurs online or through technology. This can include sending threatening or abusive texts, posting humiliating photos or videos online, or hacking into a partner's email or social media accounts.
Stalking is any repeated and unwanted attention that makes someone feel unsafe. This can include following someone, showing up at home or work uninvited, monitoring their social media accounts, or repeatedly calling or texting them.
Intimidation is any behavior that seeks to scare or threaten a partner. This can include making threats of violence, destroying property, brandishing weapons, or derogating comments about a person's race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Isolation is any behavior that seeks to separate a partner from their friends and family. This can include controlling who they see and talk to, dictating what they wear and where they go, and monitoring their phone and internet use.
Spiritual abuse is when one person uses religion to control or manipulate another. This can involve forcing someone to participate in religious activities against their will, telling them they are going to hell if they leave the relationship, or using religious beliefs to justify abusive behavior.
Verbal abuse is similar to emotional abuse but more focused on words than actions. Verbal abusers may call names, belittle their victims, criticize everything they do, yell at them constantly, or even threaten them physically or emotionally without following through with their threats. Over time this type of behavior can lead to low self-esteem and depression in victims who feel like nothing they do is ever good enough for the abuser.
Leaving an abusive relationship can seem like a daunting and nearly impossible task. It is often the hardest decision in someone's life since leaving means completely uprooting an entire lifestyle. It's also hard because abusers blame their victims for their behavior, and the victims, who are well-meaning and empathic people, often believe what they are told--that it's their fault. In a world full of conflicting advice, articles, and opinions, it can be hard to determine when it's time to leave — but you don't go through this challenging process alone! Get support. Leaving an abusive relationship, especially one that includes physical abuse, can be dangerous.
The first step in leaving an abusive relationship is understanding that it's not your fault. No one deserves to be treated with violence or disrespect, no matter their actions. Remember that you are not responsible for your partner's behavior and cannot change or fix them, despite what they say.
Abuse isn't an easy thing to survive. That scarring trauma can linger in your life for a long time. Painful emotions, haunting memories, or feeling unsafe all around you—it's too much to bear alone. But with counseling and support groups specifically designed for folks who have gone through the same situation as you, there's hope on the horizon! Together we'll work towards healing that pain to make healthier relationships possible.
After enduring an abusive relationship, wanting some newfound love and support is normal. But don't rush into anything too fast! Before you open yourself up again, take the time necessary to recognize your worth as an individual; that way, previous mistakes won't find their way back, no matter who comes around next. Healing is challenging but essential before any meaningful connection can be easily pursued rather than fear. Here are additional relationship resources to help build soulful and meaningful relationships.
Before you leave, it is important to make a plan. This plan should include where you will go, how you will get there, and what you will do once you are safe. Having a support system, whether friends, family, or a domestic violence hotline, is also important.
Gather Important Documents and Possessions
Once you have a plan, the next step is gathering any important documents and possessions you need. This includes your birth certificate, driver's license, social security card, bank statements, and medications. It would be best to consider taking sentimental items or anything that may help start over.
Leave When It Is Safe To Do So
It is important only to leave when it is safe to do so. This means when your partner is not home or when they are asleep. Try to have someone with you when you leave. If not, ensure a safe place where your partner cannot find you.
Seek Help From a Domestic Violence Shelter or Hotline
After you have left the abusive relationship, it is important to seek help from a domestic violence shelter or hotline. These organizations can provide resources and support as you rebuild your life.
Abusive relationships can show up in all different ways, making it hard to tell if something is off until the situation becomes dangerous. If you or someone close to you are facing abuse from a partner (no matter what form!), don't suffer alone - speak out and get help! You deserve safety and respect in any relationship. It's also essential for everyone—whether directly affected by an abusive relationship or not—to be aware of protecting ourselves and those around us better.