Victims don’t always tell you that they’re being abused.
Nobody ever wants to think their friend or family member is experiencing domestic abuse from a partner. However, one out of every four women in the United States—and one of nine men— experience domestic violence by a partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. One of the ways to help combat the effects is by being able to recognize the signs of domestic abuse.
Remember, domestic abuse (also known as intimate partner violence) comes in many forms, including:
- Physical violence, or actions that cause bodily injury to the victim
- Sexual violence, including sexual assault and rape
- Emotional abuse, or behaviors that control, degrade, or intimidate the victim
The Importance of Knowing the Signs
You might expect a close friend or family member to tell you if they are experiencing domestic abuse. However, this is often not the case.
Some victims don’t realize their partners are abusing them. In many cases, they may have rationalized their partner’s behavior. Other victims may be afraid of the possible risks of telling someone about their partner’s abuse. For example, they might worry their partner will retaliate and hurt them more. On the other hand, some may not want to see their partner go to jail or face other punishments.
In other words, sometimes it helps for a bystander (like you) to notice the signs of domestic abuse early and provide support.
Potential Signs of Domestic Abuse
The signs of domestic abuse may be obvious right away (like bruises) or may take time to appear (like reduced confidence).
Here are some of the potential signs of domestic abuse to look for:
- The victim mentions worrying about upsetting their partner
- They frequently defend or make excuses for their partner’s behavior
- Their partner publicly insults them or acts possessive
- The victim often has bruises or other marks of injuries (without explanation)
- Their personality changes, including increased anxiety, reduced self-esteem, or depression
- The victim seems to be withdrawing more and more from their friends and family
What to Do Next
It may seem obvious to you that your loved one should leave the relationship. Unfortunately, they may be less willing to leave or get help, which may surprise you. Proceed with caution, and show your support without shaming or guilting them for their choices.
Let them know they can talk to a domestic violence agency or call a helpline to get the necessary help. For example, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE.
- Domestic violence. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on January 26, 2021)
- How to help a friend who is being abused. Washington, DC: U.S. Office on Women’s Health. (Accessed on January 26, 2021)
- Statistics. Denver, CO: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (Accessed on January 26, 2021)