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Warning Signs of Abusive or Potentially Abusive Relationships

The abuser is controlling and possessive.

  • The victim is restricted in communicating with others; their use of phone, e-mail, or Internet is monitored. 
  • The victim is forbidden to see friends or family, or limited in contact with them. 
  • The abuser is intensely jealous of the victim’s interactions with others. 
  • The abuser invades the victim’s privacy – their home or room, walks or drives, diary, mail, e-mail, Facebook page, possessions. 
  • The abuser grills the victim about what they did at work or at school. 
  • The abuser controls finances and decision-making. 
  • The abuser refuses to accept the victim’s termination of the relationship. 

The abuser seems to be two different people.

  • The abuser has a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, often showing a charming, charismatic side to others. 
  • The abuser seems deeply penitent, sorrowful, and loving after an emotionally, verbally, or physically violent episode.    
  • The abuser is desperate and extreme.
  • The abuser may push for commitments too early in the relationship. 
  • The abuser threatens to kill the victim or themselves if the victim leaves them. 
  • The abuser says they cannot live without the victim or the victim cannot live without them. 
  • The abuser seems obsessed with having the victim for themselves. 
  • The abuser is verbally abusive.
  • The abuser puts the victim down, privately or publicly. 
  • The abuser plays on the victim’s guilt or their past love for them. 
  • The abuser makes the victim question the victim’s sanity or accuses the victim of being crazy. 
  • The abuser insults the victim’s intelligence, body, or looks. 
  • The abuser is unable or unwilling to communicate verbally without shouts, curses, or insults. 
  • The abuser speaks disparagingly of the opposite sex.
  • The abuser denigrates the victim’s friends. 
  • The abuser talks about the inferiority of the other sex, or the need to keep them in line.

The abuser is violent.

  • The abuser loses their temper easily over small things; their anger seems frightening or out of proportion. 
  • The abuser grabs the victim, twists their arm, pushes them, pulls them into the car, otherwise uses physical force. 
  • The abuser is violent toward the victim’s pets or cruel to animals in general. 
  • The abuser was physically violent to a former partner. 
  • The abuser throws things, kicks things, breaks things. 
  • The abuser demands sex, forcing the victim or persistently urging them to perform sex acts without their consent. 
  • The abuser disowns responsibility.
  • The abuser denies being verbally or physically abusive. 
  • The abuser blames the victim or someone else for the abuse. (The victim "made them do it" or "drove them to it.") 
  • The abuser excuses the abuse on grounds of their great love for the victim. 
  • The victim shows signs of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse.
  • The victim excuses the abuser’s actions to themselves or others. (So the victim cannot name what is happening to them.) 
  • The victim speaks of the inferiority of their sex or of their responsibility to keep relationships or homes intact. 
  • The victim accepts responsibility for the abuser’s abuse, verbal or physical. 
  • The victim wants to end the relationship but fears what it will do to the abuser or that they will retaliate. 
  • The victim has recurring, non-specific aches, pains, or ailments, which can signify stress. 
  • The victim’s self-esteem suffers. They speak poorly of themselves, especially in relation to the abuser. 
  • The victim makes significant lifestyle or appearance changes to benefit or appease the abuser. 
  • The victim has bruises or seems physically hurt. 

Based on “Warning Signs of Abusive or Potentially Abusive Relationships” copyright 1999, 2010, 2011 Gail Griffin.
All rights reserved. Please use with attribution.