Red flags of domestic violence

Do you know the signs of domestic violence?

Recent news stories have cast light on cases of domestic abuse, from nationally reported incidents involving popular NFL players to the story of a local woman whose ex-boyfriend is charged with killing her.

Long before a physical assault occurs, warning signs may be present in a person’s behavior. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at the beginning of a relationship, it may not be easy to tell if a partner will become abusive.

Domestic abuse affects men and women, but 85 percent of victims are female. A study recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in every four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines it as “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior” by one domestic partner (a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend) against another.

Many abusive partners seem loving at first but begin to show unhealthy behaviors as the relationship grows. Abusers try to control their partners, often in subtle ways. Over time, the abuse may progress to violent behavior. If you suspect that you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, look for certain red flags. According to the hotline, an abusive partner may:

  • Embarrass you with put-downs or call you names
  • Tell you that you can’t do anything right
  • Prevent you from making your own decisions
  • Control all the money in the relationship or take your money
  • Try to stop you from seeing your friends and family
  • Demand to know where you are at all times
  • Show jealousy when you spend time with other people
  • Withhold affection to punish you
  • Act or look at you in ways that scare you, including displaying weapons
  • Threaten to harm or take away your children
  • Destroy your property or threaten your pets
  • Cheat on you and tell you it’s your fault
  • Pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to
  • Blame you for the abuse

The hotline points out another significant warning sign of an abusive partner — a behavior psychologists call “gaslighting.” When you try to talk to your partner about the hurtful behavior, instead of hearing your concerns, your partner may refuse to listen, deny an incident happened, say you’re imagining things or not remembering correctly, accuse you of making things up or call you “too sensitive” or even “crazy.” If your partner does this, it can get worse over time and leave you feeling confused, unhappy and isolated. You may begin to question your own observations and instincts and even your sanity.

If you need help, the Center for Women and Families serves nine counties in Kentucky and Indiana. Call the 24-hour Crisis Line at (502) 581-7222 in Kentucky, (812) 944-6743 in Indiana or toll-free at (844) 237-2231. You can talk with crisis counselors for advice and information about shelters and other resources. You also can visit for information about resources and take a quiz that can help you determine if your relationship is unhealthy.

You also can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline — (800) 799-SAFE (7233) — to talk with trained advocates for confidential, one-on-one support and information. They can connect you to resources and talk with you to help you identify if your partner’s behavior is abusive.

An important note: If you look online for information, use a computer that you know will not be checked by the abusive person. Your search history might be visible even if you try to delete it. To be safe, use a public computer in a library, local college or coffee shop.


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