Domestic Violence Warning Signs
Domestic violence is a recurring, deliberate pattern of behaviors perpetuated by one partner (or ex-partner) to gain power and maintain control over another in a relationship, including physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and financial abuse. It affects individuals from all backgrounds — regardless of age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, education, or religion. Domestic violence includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, or injure someone.
If you or someone you know needs help, call our 24-hour confidential domestic violence hotline at 619.234.3164.
Warning signs of an abusive relationship
There is no one typical, detectable personality of an abuser. In fact, many abusive partners may seem absolutely perfect in the early stages of a relationship. However, they do often display common characteristics. An abuser often denies the existence or minimizes the seriousness of the violence and its effect on the victim and other family members. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.
Some of the signs of an abusive relationship include a partner who:
- Wants to know where you are and who you’re with all of the time — frequently calling, texting and emailing you throughout the day.
- Displays jealous or possessive tendencies but says that they are only trying to protect you or it’s because they love you.
- Wants you all to themselves insisting that you stop spending time with your friends or family, or stop participating in activities you enjoyed before the relationship.
- Prevents you from working, attending school, or making any of your own decisions.
- Criticizes or puts you down with comments that you are stupid, unattractive, can’t do anything right, or that no one else would ever want or love you.
- Destroys your property or threatens to hurt or kill your pets.
- Controls your money, refuses to give you money for necessary expenses, or doesn’t allow you to make any financial decisions.
- Rages out of control with you but can maintain composure around others.
- Makes you feel unable or fearful of making decisions without their approval.
- Takes no responsibility for their behavior and blames you or others.
What to do if you are in an abusive relationship
Getting out of an abusive or violent relationship isn’t easy. Maybe you’re still hoping that things will change or you’re afraid of what your partner will do if they discover you’re trying to leave.
Whatever your reasons, you probably feel trapped, fearful, and helpless — but support and resources are available. Call our confidential 24-hour hotline at 619.234.3164 and a counselor can assist you with developing a safety plan and connecting you to resources, including shelter, legal services, childcare, job training, and other services. Be safe — always call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
How to help someone in an abusive relationship
- 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. Do not be critical of the abusive partner — instead make firm statements that violence under any circumstance is unacceptable.
- 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. Victims are not responsible for their partner’s choices or violence, and do not deserve more shame. They will need your support even more during those times.
- Do not assume that the victim is ready to leave the relationship or that you know what is best for them. Don’t pressure the victim to make quick decisions.
- Assist the victim in getting legal help if necessary or with other sources of protection, such as protective or restraining orders, changing current phone numbers, etc.
- Do not force the victim or apply pressure to not see the abuser. It may be very difficult for the victim to leave the relationship for a variety of reasons. Respect their choices.
- Provide a safe environment and opportunities for the victim to become aware of available resources, explore their options, and know that they do not deserve to be abused.
- 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.
- Don’t underestimate the danger. Frequently, the most dangerous time for a victim is when they leave the abuser. If you fear for their safety, call 911 immediately.
Power & Control Wheel
Courtesy of Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
- 24-Hour Becky’s House Domestic Violence Hotline: 619.234.3164
- Power and Control Wheel (English)
- Power and Control Wheel (Spanish)
- Equality Wheel (English)
- Equality Wheel (Spanish)
- National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1.866.331.9474 or 1.866.331.8453 TTY
- 211 San Diego: dial 2-1-1 from any phone
- San Diego Domestic Violence Council
- 52-Week Batterer’s Treatment