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Frequently Asked Questions: 

How Do You Know if You Are Being Abused?


Abusers use many ways to isolate, intimidate and control their partners. It may start insidiously and may be difficult to recognize. Early on, your partner may seem attentive, generous, and protective in ways that later turn out to be frightening and controlling. Initially the abuse may include isolated incidents for which your partner expresses remorse and promises never to do again or rationalizes as being due to stress or caused by something you did or didn’t do.



Why do victims stay in or return to abusive relationships?


This is one of the most frequently asked questions about domestic violence, and the answer is complicated. The National Network to End Domestic Violence responds to this question best: “Why does the abuser choose to abuse?” The short answer for victims is the power of fear. Fear of being injured or killed keeps many women in abusive relationships, and their concerns are legitimate. The risk of death or injury to a victim is greatest when leaving an abusive relationship or shortly thereafter. NNEDV reports that “on average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day." Other reasons victims stay in abusive relationships are related to economic dependence, children, a sense of isolation, shame, past failures of the system to respond, and religious and/or societal pressures.


What are the warning signs of an abusive relationship?


There are many warning signs. The physical signs are obvious: hitting, kicking, punching – anything that causes injury to a victim. Other signs include extreme jealousy and control, threats, forced sex, destruction of personal property or harm to pets, economic control, repeated contact such as constant text messages or phone calls to the office, refusal to let the victim see family and friends, threats to take away children or initiate deportation, constant criticism, or extreme anger. If you see these warning signs in a relationship, you should consider a safety plan and a means of escape.


How does a potential victim know if she is getting involved with an abuser?


There are a few subtle warning signs that can occur early in a relationship. A potential abuser may be eager to move the relationship along too quickly; he may seem “too good to be true”; later, he can repeatedly blame others for things that go wrong, refusing to accept accountability for his actions; he criticizes his partner’s appearance or uses put-downs to control his partner; he may try to limit access to his partner’s friends and family. These are a few noteworthy “early warning signs.”


If I believe someone I care about is in an abusive relationship, what can I do?


If she tells you she’s in an abusive relationship, believe her. Give her resources she can use to get help, like a number for a domestic violence hotline. Acknowledge her fear and the risk she takes in speaking with you. If she does not wish to acknowledge the relationship, respect her right to privacy and to refuse help. Don’t force her to discuss the relationship with you if she is not ready. Don’t be



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