Is Someone You Know Being Abused?

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There is no way to tell for sure if someone is experiencing domestic violence. Those who are battered, and those who abuse, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, economic classes and personality types. Victims are not always passive with low self-esteem, and batterers are not always violent or hateful to their partner in front of others. Most people experiencing relationship violence do not tell others what goes on at home. So how do you tell? Look for the signs:

Injuries and Excuses:
            In some cases, bruises and injuries may occur frequently and be in obvious places. When this happens, the intent of the batterer is to keep the victim isolated and trapped at home. When black eyes and other bruising is a result of domestic violence, the person being battered may be forced to call in sick to work, or face the embarrassment and excuses of how the injuries occurred. When there are frequent injuries seen by others, the victim may talk about being clumsy, or have elaborate stories of how the injuries occurred. In other cases, bruises and other outward injuries may be inflicted in places where the injuries won't show. This too is a tactic used by an abuser to keep a victim from reaching out or from having the violence exposed.

Absences from Work or School:
            When severe beatings or other trauma related to violence occurs, the victim may take time off from their normal schedule. If you see this happening, or the person is frequently late, this could be a sign of something (such as relationship violence) occurring.

Low Self-Esteem:
            Some victims have low self-esteem, while others have a great deal of confidence and esteem in other areas of their life (at work, as a parent, with hobbies, etc.) but not within their relationship. In terms of dealing with the relationship, a sense of powerlessness may exist. A victim may believe that they could not make it on their own or that they are somehow better off with the abuser as part of their life.

Personality Changes:
            People may notice that a very outgoing person, for instance, becoming quiet and shy around their partner over time. This happens because the one being battered "walks on egg shells" when in the presence of the one who is abusive. Accusations (of flirting, talking too loudly, or telling the wrong story to someone) have taught the abused person that it is easier to act a certain way around the batterer than to experience additional accusations in the future.

Fear of Conflict:
            As a result of being battered, some victims may generalize the experience of powerlessness with other relationships. Conflicts with co-workers, friends, relatives, and neighbors can create a lot of anxiety. For many, it is easier to give in to whatever someone else wants than to challenge it. Asserting needs and desires begins to feel like a battle, and not worth the risks of losing. Victims may also exhibit overly-friendly behavior, particularly to those that they perceive as being in a position of power (like the abuser's in laws, a boss or a supervisor at work, or even to advocates if a victim seeking help from a domestic violence program. This can manifest as everything from sending cards to only very casual acquaintances to making dinner or providing over-indulgent attention.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior:
            For adults or children who have experienced violence from a loved one, the ability to identify feelings and wants, and to express them, may not exist. This could result in passive-aggressive behavior. Rather than telling others what they want, they say one thing but then express anger or frustration in an aggressive manner (such as burning dinner, or not completing a report on time for their boss).

Self-Blame:
            You may notice someone taking all of the blame for things that go wrong. A co-worker may share a story about something that happened at home and then take all of the blame for whatever occurred. If you notice this happening a lot, it may be a sign that this person is being battered or experiencing emotional abuse.

Isolation and Control:
            In general, adults who are abused physically are often isolated. Their partners tend to control their lives to a great extent as well as verbally degrade them. This isolation is intended to make the abuser the center of the victim's universe, as well as to purposefully limit the victim's access to others who might attempt to help the victim escape. You might notice that someone: has limited access to the telephone, frequently makes excuses as to why they can't see you or they insist that their partner has to come along, doesn't seem to be able to make decisions about spending money, isn't allowed to drive, go to school or get a job; or has a notable change in self-esteem which might include inability to make eye contact or looking away or at the ground when talking.

Stress-Related Problems:
            These often manifest as poor sleep, sleeping at strange times (also a sign of depression), experiencing non-specific aches or pains that are either constant and/or recurring, stomach problems, chronic headaches, and flare up of problems made worse by stress such as.

 

How can I help a friend or family member who is being abused?

The Hotline
http://www.thehotline.org/get-educated/how-can-i-help-a-friend-or-family-member-who-is-being-abused/Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that you are concerned for their safety.


Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse. Tell him or her you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help them recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.

Acknowledge that he or she is in a very difficult and scary situation. Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure him or her that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there.

Be supportive. Listen to your friend or family member. Remember that it may be difficult for him or her to talk about the abuse. Let him or her know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.

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

Encourage him or her to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.

If he or she ends the relationship, 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. He or she will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.

Help him or her to develop a safety plan.

Encourage him or her 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 him or her to talk to family and friends. If he or she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.

Remember that you cannot “rescue” him or her. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that they want to do something about it. It’s important for you to support him or her and help them find a way to safety and peace.

 

Please call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224 to discuss your concerns and questions.