Following from my previous myTake which attempted to highlight how domestic abuse against men is often played down or men themselves are completely unaware of the warning signs, I have decided to share those warning signs of domestic abuse. These signs apply to all relationships and is for men and women. This myTake will finish with a metaphor of why leaving an abusive partner is not so easy.
They isolate you
They will try their best to distance you from friends and family. After all, they're your support network that could help you if you decide to leave. They may try to turn you away from them, telling you lies or making you believe that they don't really love you. They may say that they're getting in the way of your perfect relationship and if you want the relationship to do well (which everyone does, especially when they're in love), you take their suggestion on board. Telling you that you can't go out to see them or throwing a tantrum if you do is controlling behaviour.
They put you down
If you make a mistake, they may laugh and taunt you about it maliciously. They may tell jokes to those around you that are embarrassing and your partner knows this. They might make rude comments about your appearance or they will regularly point out people who have certain attributes that you don't.
You're always to blame
Even the smallest thing is your fault. If something happens in your relationship and you genuinely think they're to blame, it's not long until you're being shouted at and told that it is all your fault. Abusers are so manipulative and charming that it is very easy for them to brainwash you until you actually believe you did something wrong. Doing this regularly makes the victim believe that they not only do everything wrong, but brings into question their own perspective of their life. They begin to question whether they have ever actually been right about something or just thought they were. This is part of the confusion that victims often experience in domestic abuse situations, they start to doubt everything.
They're possessive and jealous
A very big red flag is possessive or jealous behaviour. Jealousy is a common and normal feeling to have, in small, mild doses. But when it gets out of hand, it is not a healthy relationship.
They're always checking up on you
They're always asking where you are. They may get angry with you and accuse you of lying about your whereabouts. They might also be quite needy and want to spend loads of time with you - this deprives you from doing other activities and makes your world to be all about them.
They make threats
This can include threats against you, themselves or your friends and family. This is an excellent way to keep someone under control and/or to prevent them from leaving the relationship.
Too intense too fast
If you have just started dating and within a couple of weeks, they've said they love you or after a few months, they've proposed to you or asked you to move in, that is often a bad sign. When we're in love, it can suppress the parts of the brain that controls critical thinking. Whilst we might think that this is odd behaviour if we saw it happening to a friend, it is different if it happens in your own relationship. You assume it's because your relationship is meant to be and they're "the one" because they've fallen for you so fast and can't wait to spend their life with you. Unfortunately, the abuser is hoping that you'll drop everything for them and start to choose them over your friends and family.
They hit you
Domestic abuse does not always lead to or include physical violence. You can experience domestic abuse and never be physically hit. In fact emotional abuse/coercive control is seen as the most damaging form of abuse. However, no-one should ever hit/beat their partner. Despite all the charming or manipulative things an abuser might say after hitting you ("I'm sorry, but you made me do it/I won't do it again"), it is all still a part of their game and when abuse escalates to physical abuse, that is the most serious warning sign that you need to get out.
Breaking or hitting things
If you've ever experienced a person fly into a rage and start to hit or break things, you know that it can make you feel quite vulnerable and unsafe. This is coercive control to make the victim become submissive and give into whatever they're demanding/angry about, due to a fear of being hurt and/or not wanting anymore things to be damaged.
They make you feel uneasy
Abusers can be unpredictable and become enraged over minor things. Add in a lot of confusion about your own life and circumstances and you start to feel like you're always walking on eggshells around them. You're aware of what you say and do constantly as to avoid an angry outburst, an insult or physical violence. You're unsure of what mood they're in and soon all you can think about is monitoring them and their behaviour, trying to recognise the signs to indicate something may happen.
So why doesn't the victim just leave?
Domestic abuse is a gradual and long winded form of abuse that attacks a person subtly from all angles. It is often when the damage is done, when the person has been completely knocked to their knees and the abuse is getting worse, that they realise what's been happening, but by then, it is too difficult to leave.
You need to have the mental strength, confidence, self worth and self esteem to decide that you've had enough and to leave, but the abuser has slowly chipped at that until you no longer feel like yourself. You start to forget who you were before the relationship began and all you know now is how to deal with your abuser. Even if you have the drive to leave, if you've moved away from your friends and family, who can you turn to? The abuser may have encouraged or caused arguments that have led to a big fallout. That is another hurdle for a victim to overcome. Then you add in the threats - "if you leave me, I'll kill myself" or "if you leave, I'll hurt you and your family". No-one wants to bring harm to themselves or someone else, so that is another pull on a victim that prevents them from leaving. Break ups from even healthy relationships are difficult, let alone from an abusive one.
Before you experience domestic abuse, you're a proud, strong person atop your very own sturdy castle. The walls are your beliefs, your morals, your self esteem and self worth. They are your confidence and aspirations. The foundations are your family and friends or even your colleagues - your social support. When you get in a relationship with an abusive person, it begins with little rocks and pebbles ("Why did you go to that party? I told you not to, you know how I worry about you") being thrown at your walls. They're so small, you don't notice anything is being done. Soon, the rocks and pebbles become boulders and they start leaving dents and the walls begin to crumble ("You're looking fat today"). You feel the rumbling of your castle before you begin to fall as your castle falls around you. Your foundations disappear ("I don't like your friend, I don't think you should see them anymore") and before you know it, you're lying on the floor, alone surrounded by rubble. Your life and who you thought you were is in pieces. You're an empty shell. The abuser strips everything away from you. Just as it's not so easy to rebuild a castle that has collapsed into dust, it's not so easy to leave an abuser. And it never helps when a person who is stood upon their sturdy castle that has never been disintegrated, says "just rebuild your castle, it's not that hard".