Recognizing Abuse

Abuse is not the easiest thing in the world to recognize, even if it is
happening to you directly. Not everyone who is being abused understands
that what they are experiencing is abuse. Some may recognize that
something isn't right about how they are treated, but they may be
afraid to speak up and name it as abuse for fear of retribution from
their abuser. The following list describes various interactions that
people might have that are examples of abuse. If one or more of these
things is happening to you, there is very good chance that you are
being abused.

  • Being physically, sexually, or emotionally hurt and/or violated by your partner on a regular basis.
  • Being called hurtful names and/or being put down by partner on a regular basis.
  • Being controlled by partner. For instance, if your
    partner tells you that you are not allowed to have friends, leave the
    house without his permission, or tells you that you are not allowed to
    pursue your own goals growth, such as attending school or finding work.
  • Becoming more withdrawn so that you do not spend
    much time with others who may clue in to the fact that abuse is
    happening to you.
  • Finding yourself making excuses for partner’s
    bad and harmful behavior (perhaps so that you won't have to accept the
    fact that abuse is happening).
  • Recognizing that your relationship has a pattern
    or cycle in which something abusive occurs, you tell partner that you
    will not tolerate the abuse anymore, but then forgiving your partner
    when he or she apologizes.
  • Blaming yourself for bad things your partner has
    done to you. For example, telling yourself that you are really
    difficult to live with so you deserve to be hit.
  • Feeling trapped in your own home and being fearful when you know partner is coming home.

If you are a third party to a potentially abusive situation (suspected
child abuse, domestic abuse or elder abuse), it may be difficult to
know if abuse is happening in any direct manner. You might need to rely
on circumstantial evidence to identify the abuse. The following list
suggests things to look for that could be indicative of abuse.

  • There are physical signs of injury, such as bruises,
    sores, burns, cuts, or black eyes. Such injuries may be hidden (e.g.,
    behind sunglasses or with clothing)
  • The victim makes implausible excuses for injuries or absences ("I fell down the stairs").
  • The victim displays personality changes (angry, depressed, moody, defensive, etc.)
  • The victim becomes withdrawn, or suddenly fearful.
  • The victim becomes depressed, or more irritable or agitated than normal.
  • The victim has difficulty sleeping at night, or may display excessive tiredness (can be a symptom of depression)
  • The victim's appetite changes for better or worse. Weight loss or gain may occur (can be a symptom of depression).
  • The victim's self-esteem lowers.
  • The victim is distracted and has difficulty concentrating.
  • The victim neglects hygiene (becomes smelly, goes
    unwashed; may be an attempt to ward off a sexual predator if a child,
    or as a consequence of depression).
  • Changes are noted in the victim's personal appearance or in the appearance of his or her home or living environment.
  • The victim complains of pain in the genital region (more common in children).
  • For older children and adults, the victim 'acts out', becoming sexually promiscuous, and/or using drugs.
  • Elders may display confusion