Isolation – In the beginning it may not be obvious that you are spending less time with family and friends because it feels like you have some choice in the matter. You may hear things like, don’t go out with them tonight, I haven’t seen you all week, I miss you. Your partner’s behavior may also appear initially as chivalrous as in – you don’t need a car or to learn your way around, I don’t mind taking you where you want to go.
Criticism – You may begin to feel that you can’t do anything right. Suddenly there is something lacking in your shape, size, parenting, housekeeping, education, conversation, abilities, etc.
Blaming – Abusers often fail to take responsibility for their feelings or circumstances. They insist their intimate partner makes them angry and causes them to be hurtful and mean, or they complain that the partner is responsible for everything from a bad day to the promotion they did not get.
Jealousy – Women in abusive relationships are sometimes accused of being unfaithful. The batterer scrutinizes every aspect of her behavior and sees infidelity where it does not exist. For example, if a woman casually greets a neighbor or changes her hairstyle, “she must be having an affair.” Gradually, many women will self-isolate, limiting where they go and whom they talk to in order to avoid a potential confrontation.
Past Abuse – There is no reason to assume that a person who has battered will not continue doing so. Change can happen, but not without hard work. That means the person using violence to control their intimate partner must accept responsibility for their behavior and actively work on adopting new behaviors. Just saying you are going to be different does not make it so.
Intimidation – This may take the form of breaking or slamming things and other shows of physical strength or prowess designed to incite fear.
Tension – Women at risk of or experiencing domestic violence often describe a tense atmosphere in which they “walk on eggshells,” constantly worried about doing or saying anything that will “set their partner off.”
This list is not exhaustive. The most important warning sign of domestic violence is your instinct. It is okay to trust your gut when it tells you something is not right. Help is available. Contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or ncadv.org for confidential, free resources and support in your area.
It is estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience some form of domestic violence in her lifetime. You are not alone.