Are You Being Abused?

Does your partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, care giver, or a family member:

  • Make you feel uncomfortable or afraid?

  • Often put you down, humiliate you, or make you feel worthless?

  • Constantly check up on what you’re doing or where you are going?

  • Try to stop you from seeing your own friends or family?

  • Make you feel afraid to disagree or say ‘no’ to them?

  • Tell you how the household finances should be spent, or stop you from having any money for yourself?

  • Scare or hurt you by being violent (like hitting, choking, smashing things, locking you in, driving dangerously to frighten you)

  • Pressure or force you to do sexual things that you don’t want to do?

  • Threaten to hurt you, or to kill themselves if you say you want to end the relationship?

  • Have your children heard or seen these things or been hurt themselves?

If any of these statements are true about your relationship, please seek help from the resources pages.

Types of Abuse

Experiencing even one or two of these in a relationship is a red flag that abuse may be present. Remember, each type of abuse is serious and no one deserves to experience any form of it:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy. Examples of physical abuse include:

  • Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking.

  • Throwing something at you such as a phone, book, shoe or plate.

  • Pushing or pulling you.

  • Grabbing your clothing.

  • Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace or other weapon.

  • Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act.

  • Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere.

 

Emotional/Verbal Abuse

Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking. There are many behaviors that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse, including:

  • Calling you names and putting you down.

  • Yelling and screaming at you.

  • Intentionally embarrassing you in public.

  • Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family.

  • Telling you what to do and wear.

  • Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)

  • Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate you.

  • Blaming your actions for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.

  • Accusing you of cheating and often being jealous of your outside relationships.

  • Stalking you.

  • Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.

  • Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.

  • Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.

  • Threatening to have your children taken away.

 

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse can be very subtle. It can include telling you what you can and cannot buy or requiring you to share control of your bank accounts. At no point does someone you are in a relationship have the right to use money or how you spend it to control you. Here are some examples of financially abusive behaviors:

  • Giving you an allowance and closely watching what you buy.

  • Placing your paycheck in their account and denying you access to it.

  • Keeping you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.

  • Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours you do.

  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job.

  • Using your social security number to obtain bad credit loans without your permission.

  • Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.

  • Maxing out your credit cards without your permission.

  • Refusing to give you money, food, rent, medicine or clothing.

  • Using their money to hold power over you because they know you are not in the same financial situation as they are.

 

 

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse refers to any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don’t want to do. It can also refer to behavior that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including oral sex, rape or restricting access to birth control and condoms.

It is important to know that just because the victim “didn’t say no,” doesn’t mean that they meant “yes.” When someone does not resist an unwanted sexual advance, it doesn’t mean that they consented. Sometimes physically resisting can put a victim at a bigger risk for further physical or sexual abuse. Whether they were intoxicated or felt pressured, intimidated or obligated to act a certain way, sexual assault/abuse is never the victim’s fault.

Some examples of sexual assault and abuse include:​

  • Unwanted kissing or touching.

  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity.

  • Rape or attempted rape.

 

How Domestic Violence Affects Children

The following behaviors can often be seen in children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence:

INFANTS – AGE 3

  • physical problems (frequent colds, diarrhea)

  • excessive screaming and irritability

  • problems falling asleep

  • developmental delays (not gaining weight, not eating)

  • anxiety, sadness, crying, emotional withdrawal

 

AGES 3 – 7

  • delayed language development

  • regression to infant-like behavior such as thumb sucking

  • difficulty getting along with others

  • hostility and aggression

  • defiant and destructive behavior

  • clinging behavior

  • fear

  • self-blaming and feelings of guilt

 

AGES 7 – 13

  • low self-esteem

  • conflicted feelings about the abuser

  • increased aggression toward peers, siblings and parents

  • shame (denying the violence at home)

  • delinquent behavior (stealing, fighting, using drugs)

 

AGES 13 – 18

  • patterns of blaming others for his/her behavior, especially parents

  • high levels of anger and anxiety

  • inappropriate belief that violence can be a response to conflict

  • protective behavior toward the victim

  • violence against the victim

  • sense of responsibility for the care of younger siblings

  • running away

  • patterns of truancy

  • substance abuse problems

  • promiscuous behavior

 

ADDITIONAL EFFECTS – ALL AGE GROUPS

  • increased emotional needs

  • difficulty adjusting to school

  • school phobias (might fear leaving the victim alone)

  • somatic problems (asthma, peptic ulcers, chronic headaches, abdominal cramps)

  • eating disorders

  • patterns of increased deceptiveness (excessive lying, stealing, cheating)

  • inclination to mutilate or kill animals

  • inability to trust and develop relationships

  • low tolerance for frustration

  • self-destructive behavior, self-mutilation

  • memory of every detail of abuse

  • blames the victim for the abuse, pressures him/her to make things better

  • poor sexual image

  • low self-esteem

  • bed wetting

How to Help Friends and Family

Some warning signs that a friend or family may be experiencing abuse include:

  • Their partner puts them down in front of other people

  • They are constantly worried about making their partner angry

  • They make excuses for their partner’s behavior

  • Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive

  • They have unexplained marks or injuries

  • They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family

  • They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality

If someone you love is being abused, it can be so difficult to know what to do. Your instinct may be to “save” them from the relationship, but it’s not that easy. After all, there are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, and leaving can be a very dangerous time for a victim.

Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions. Additionally, you can offer support in various ways:

 

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY ARE IN A VERY DIFFICULT AND SCARY SITUATION, BE SUPPORTIVE AND LISTEN.

Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.

 

BE NON-JUDGMENTAL.

Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.

 

REMEMBER THAT YOU CANNOT “RESCUE” THEM.

Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they are the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.

 

IF THEY END THE RELATIONSHIP, IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE TO BE SUPPORTIVE OF THEM.

Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.

 

ENCOURAGE THEM TO PARTICIPATE IN ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE OF THE RELATIONSHIP WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner. Remember that you can call the hotline to find local support groups and information on staying safe.

 

ENCOURAGE THEM TO TALK TO PEOPLE WHO CAN PROVIDE HELP AND GUIDANCE.

Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups.  Offer to go with them. If they have to go to the police, court or lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.

Important Information For Men Who Experience Domestic Violence

Male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can and are frequently victims of abuse in the home, either at the hands of their female partner or, in the case of same-sex relationships, their male partner. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

There are likely many more men who do not report or seek help for their abuse, for a variety of reasons:

 

Men are socialized not to express their feelings or see themselves as victims.

Our culture still clings to narrow definitions of gender (although there are signs that this is slowly shifting). Young boys are taught not to express their emotions, to “suck it up” and “be a man.” Tony Porter calls this the “man box” in his well-known TED talk. This can be extremely detrimental to boys as they age, especially if they find themselves in an abusive relationship. Men may feel discouraged to talk about what’s going on in their personal lives, or they feel like no one will believe them. They may not even realize that they are being abused, or they might assume they should just deal with the abuse on their own.

 

Pervading beliefs or stereotypes about men being abusers, women being victims.

The majority of domestic violence stories covered by the media are about male perpetrators and female victims who are typically in heterosexual relationships. While we certainly don’t want to minimize this violence, focusing on only one type of situation renders invisible the many scenarios that do not fit this definition, including abusive relationships among homosexual, bisexual, and trans* men. This might make many victims feel like they don’t have the space or the support to speak out about their own experiences and seek help.

 

The abuse of men is often treated as less serious, or a “joke.”

When a man is abused, many people don’t take it as seriously (in part due to the previous two reasons we’ve mentioned). The truth is, abuse is not a joke, in any situation, between any two people. All victims deserve support and resources to help them feel safe.

 

Many believe there are no resources or support available for male victims.

It can seem like the majority of shelters and services for domestic violence victims are women-focused. However, services for male victims do exist. Most federal funding sources require that domestic violence services be provided to all victims of abuse. Our advocates can provide information, assist with safety planning, and/or find local resources, if available. They can also help brainstorm alternative options if local programs are not meeting the requirements for male victims, including who a caller may be able to contact if they believe they have experienced discrimination.


Rape and Sexual Assault:

 

What is sexual assault?

The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:

  • Attempted rape

  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching

  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body

  • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape

 

What is rape?

Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

 

Who are the perpetrators?

The majority of perpetrators are someone known to the victim. Approximately seven out of 10 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, such as in the case of intimate partner sexual violence or acquaintance rape.

What is consent?


Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. There are many ways to give consent, and some of those are discussed below. Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries.

Positive consent can look like this:

  • Communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”

  • Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”

  • Using physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level

 

Recovering from Sexual Violence Recovering from Sexual Violence

Recovering from a sexual assault or abuse is a process, and that process looks different for everyone. It may take weeks, months, or years—there’s no timetable for healing. Recovery can include working with a therapist to help deal with some of the challenges you may be facing, practicing self-care and safety planning. 

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Kelly Pickler, Cynthia Morton, abuse, resources.   

 Created by Amber Galiley