Signs of Domestic Violence

Abuse in regards to domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another. Often when people think of domestic violence, they automatically think of physical abuse. It is important to note that physical force is one means of power and control and it is far from the only one. It is often not the first form of abuse an abuser will use.  

How did it ever come to this? What have I done so wrong to be treated so violently? I have only coins to spend, the money I have made cleaning houses has been stripped out of my wallet by my husband for his personal use. Every time I make a close friend, I am told I cannot be with them. Hanging up the phone immediately if he enters the house, erasing all evidence of who I have called or texted on my phone. I am constantly told it is all my fault. If you wouldn’t act out so emotionally I wouldn’t have to hurt you. I am used as a tool in bed so he can quickly satisfy himself and then move on.

The abuse of neglect: a form of mistreatment by individuals resulting from inadequate attention, especially through carelessness or disregard for the needs of others. Emotional neglect: includes causing emotional pain, distress or anguish by ignoring, belittling or infantilizing the needs of others.

I am told to “Just wait at home, I’ll be back soon…..” only to have hours upon hours pass by, not really wanting him to return home, but scared in my own skin, not sure where he has gone. I am afraid to leave the house, but wishing I could. Longing for somewhere safe to run away to and hide from it all. Never wanting to return to this wretched life, but feeling hopeless and alone in my misery, warned to not talk about my life to anyone! My car tires nearly flat, the vehicle not in mechanical condition to be safe to travel long distances. The clothes I wear, never new, found in a dumpster or from a cheap thrift store, even the bra I am wearing, worn out from use by another woman. I long to escape, to be back home in the USA with my family. But, I am trapped, without the means to escape even if I wanted to. A prisoner in my own home.

Physical abuse can include punching, hitting, slapping, kicking, strangling, suffocating or physically restraining a partner against their will. Use of weapons on another human being to injure or harm. (I have written a number of other stories in blog form regarding physical abuse in greater detail if you want to read more.) It can also include driving recklessly or invading someone’s physical space, and in any other way making someone feel physically unsafe. I remember sobbing through tears of fright, unable to see the road or car in front of me my eyes so filled with tears. I would be driving our car, while being yelled at constantly. Being told how to drive, when to put the blinker on, when to pass a car, when to change lanes, when to run the light, when to turn the windshield wipers off/on, told to turn the heat off/on, turn the air conditioning off/on, you get the picture. Or he, engaging the hand brake abruptly, out of rage, while I am driving us to our destination. Inflicting even more panic and fear in every cell of my being! I would be the driver often because he had lost his license due to reckless driving and driving under the influence.

Verbal/emotional abuse. I had believed his awful lies- how worthless I was, how stupid, how ugly, and how no one would ever want me. I would look in the mirror, not even knowing the woman whose empty gaze was staring back at me, completely insecure, afraid to hold my head up in public, ashamed to be me. Having escaped and now survived domestic violence, while the signs of physical abuse might be noticeable to a friend or family member, the effects of verbal/emotional abuse are harder to spot, and harder to prove. Emotional scars take years to heal.

“While sexual abuse can be a form of physical abuse, we put it in a category by itself because it can include both physical and non-physical components. It can involve rape or other forced sexual acts, or withholding or using sex as a weapon. An abusive partner might also use sex as a means to judge their partner and assign a value – in other words, criticizing or saying that someone isn’t good enough at sex, or that sex is the only thing they’re good for. Because sex can be so loaded with emotional and cultural implications, there are any number of ways that the feelings around it can be uniquely used for power and control. It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape was illegal in all 50 states, so some people may still assume that sex is something a partner is entitled to, and not recognize it as a larger pattern of power and control.” Research from: Reach, Beyond Domestic Violence.

Mental/Psychological abuse. Mental or psychological abuse happens when one partner, through a series of actions or words, wears away at the other’s sense of mental wellbeing and health. It often involves making the victim doubt their own sanity. The result of this, especially over a sustained period of time – and often with the isolation that abusers also tend to use – is that the victim depends on the abuser more and more because they don’t trust their own judgment. They also hesitate to tell anyone about the abuse they’re experiencing, for fear they won’t be believed.

Social abuse includes cruel treatment such as public humiliation, threats, intimidation, and gossip. It may also include joking at your expense, constant heckling or teasing in public to provoke your anger, and tickling, touching, kissing, or other forms of physical acts that you have asked your partner to refrain from in public. It may also include any behavior designed to upset you in front of others. “Get your hands out of the top of my shirt,” I wanted to scream at him, as he fondled my breasts in public once again, as we headed into the grocery store. I was humiliated. What right has he to use my body in any way that satisfies him?

Signs of Social Abuse

You might be in a socially abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Encourages friends who are abusive
  • Gossips or spread rumors about you
  • Monitors your social activities
  • Treats you disrespectfully in front of others
  • Tells secrets or embarrassing stories about you
  • Refuses to socialize with your family or friends
  • Refuses to let you work outside the home
  • Demands that you account for all your time with social contacts
  • Controls who you can visit and when
  • Alienates you from your family and friends
  • Demands you move away from friends and a supportive environment

Take careful note of all of these signs of social abuse. If you find that several of these indicators are consistently practiced by your partner, then you are likely in a socially abusive relationship. However, if one of these problems occurs as an isolated incident, then that moment does not indicate abuse.

Please reach out to someone you trust if you are experiencing any of the forms of domestic violence as described in this blog. If you need a friend to go with you for support as you speak to a counselor, or a trusted physician, reach out. You are worth it! If you want to reach out to me for support, please send me a message and I will support you in any way that I can. If you have not tried yoga or would like to learn more about how yoga can help you heal, build confidence in your life, and set your mind free, don’t hesitate to join me at Hummingbird Yoga Studio. Know that there is local support wherever you live. Maybe your Family Safety Network, or a hotline number that you can call. With an understanding heart and respect for who you are, Ruth Graupner.

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