How to Recognize Signs of Abuse and How to Help

image of woman who sees signs of abuse in friendHas someone you know suffered from domestic violence? If you cannot think of someone, think again. Recent statistics show that 25% of women and 14% of men have been, or will be, subjected to intimate partner abuse. Every minute of every day, twenty people fall victim to domestic violence.

Someone You Know is Being Abused

Imagine a group of fifty people. Your department at work. The people sitting around you in a restaurant. The people you saw on the bus or train this morning. Your family, gathered for a holiday. Put them in a room in your mind, and look around.  Up to a quarter of those people will be victimized by intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

Possible Signs of Abuse

How can you know if someone is suffering from domestic violence? Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological. It’s important to know the warning signs of intimate partner violence. Does a partner anger easily? Do they blame their partner for his/her problems? Are they critical of their partner’s appearance, weight, or how they spend their time? Does he/she always need to know their schedule, and do they insist on being the center of their partners world?  Has he/she hurt their partner physically? Does he/she insist on sex when they don’t want it? Do sexual games increase in risk or intensity? Are they isolating? Does their partner feel humiliated? Do they question their own safety?

Abuse can become a pattern rapidly, or it can insidiously weave into a relationship over a long period time. For many reasons, symptoms of abuse are rationalized, even by the person who is suffering, and the victim may lose perspective and minimize their partner’s behaviors for some time. Abuse and control can become habitual, but domestic violence is not normal. It is never justified. Intimate partner violence is a crime, and the abuser is solely responsible for his behavior.

What You Can Do

If you’re concerned that someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, what can you do to help? Victims sometimes stay in abusive relationships for some time, and for many reasons. Remember that you cannot rescue them. Intervening may put the victim, or you, in danger.

Approach the victim with respect, and without judgment. If they’re ready to talk, be ready to listen. Remind them that the abuse is not their fault. When the victim is ready to take action, it’s important that they know you offer unconditional love and support.

Be prepared with contact information for local resources. Help them develop a safety plan. Encourage them to meet with community professionals and organizations that offer counseling, legal aid, shelter, and other resources. If the victim asks you to, go along with them for moral support.

Because domestic violence is so widespread, we are all touched by intimate partner abuse. Educate yourself on how to help. Find resources for those you care about. Many organizations and hotlines are ready to help. Together, we can end abuse globally…one survivor at a time.

Jessica Yaffa is available to speak to groups about reducing intimate partner/domestic violence. Book Jessica as a speaker or trainer for your next event.

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