The signs of relationship abuse are apparent much earlier than the bruises that come from domestic violence. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the terms relationship abuse and domestic violence can be used interchangeably and refer to “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”
People of any age, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic class can experience domestic violence, and the abuse usually starts subtly at first. Ultimately, relationship abuse can lead to domestic violence homicides. In 2020, there were 61 domestic violence homicides in North Carolina alone.
Types of Relationship Abuse
The most recognizable form of relationship abuse is physical abuse, which can involve your partner pulling your hair, hitting you, choking you, or smothering you. Physical abuse can also look like reckless driving, forced drug or alcohol use, trapping you at home, preventing you from eating or drinking, withholding medical care or prescriptions, throwing objects, or using weapons against you.
Sexual abuse can also be a form of physical abuse, particularly if your partner forces themselves on you, introduces new sex acts or partners without your consent, or intentionally gives you a sexually transmitted infection.
Emotional and verbal abuse can often coincide with or precede physical and sexual abuse. Beware of behaviors like shaming, coercion, financial abuse, digital abuse, or stalking. Victims of domestic violence rarely suffer from just one form of abuse, so it’s important to keep an eye out for the warning signs of abuse (see below).
Warning Signs of Abuse
Abusive behavior can be as simple as your partner telling you that you never do anything right. If your partner spends a significant amount of their time and energy trying to demean and control you, it may only be a matter of time before the abuse escalates into physical violence and other types of abuse (see above).
If you notice any of the following behaviors, you may need to ask for help and begin creating an exit plan:
- Constant disapproval
- Extreme jealousy
- Rules for who you can and cannot see
- Insults or demeaning language, especially in front of others
- Controlling finances
- Pressure to have sex or perform sexual acts you’re not comfortable with
- Pressure to use drugs or alcohol
- Criticism of your parenting abilities
- Threats about taking away or harming your pets or children
- Physical threats and intimidation
- Destruction of your belongings or home
You should feel safe within your relationships, including your marriage and intimate relationships. If you do not feel safe at home, there are many organizations that can help you leave an unsafe situation.
Remember, protecting yourself and your children does not mean you are giving up on your marriage or your relationship, but getting away from an abusive situation is the first step to a brighter future. You and your partner may be able to work through your problems with a relationship counselor, but first, you need to be safe and regain the power your partner has been taking away.
If you need help leaving an abusive situation, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
Whether or not you choose to separate or divorce, our attorneys can help protect you and your children. If you do want to end a marital relationship, we can also help you maintain custody of your children and your financial resources.
Remember, domestic violence can happen to anyone, it is never your fault, and you do not deserve it. Taking this first step may be scary, but we are here for you and can help connect you to the legal resources you need to stay safe.
Once again, if you are in an emergency situation, please call 911 or 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
When you are safe, please call us at (704) 659-0007 to discuss your legal options.