About Abuse

Signs That a Person is Abusive

  • Jealousy and Possessiveness: Accuses partner of cheating; wants to be with partner all the time; must know where partner has been (and with whom) when not together.
  • Controlling Behaviour: Questions partner about friends and activities; partner needs permission to do certain things. Justifies control with “concern” for partner’s safety and well-being.
  • Quick Involvement: Love at first sight; pressure for commitment; needy; often living together or engaged within six months or less after first meeting.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Places partner on a pedestal with excessive compliments and flattery. Expects partner to be perfect – always there for him/her.
  • Isolation: Cuts partner off from friends and family; limits use car, telephone, internet; interferes with work, school, and other activities. Approach is “you and me against the world.”
  • Blames Others: Won’t take responsibility for behaviour/feelings; blames others (boss, partner, family; partner’s family, etc.). “You make me mad; you hurt me by not doing what I ask.”
  • Hypersensitivity: The abuser is easily insulted and sees most things as personal attacks. He or she often looks for fights, or blows things out of proportion, and is unpredictable.
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Frequent, sudden, and extreme mood changes; appears charming and rational to outsiders, but is nasty, controlling, mean-spirited and often outraged at home.
  • Rigid Gender Roles: Males favour “traditional” roles; believe women are inferior; and need to be “king of the household”. They also believe people are “meant” to be in relationships.
  • Use of Force During Sex: Force is excused as “playful”, but shows little concern for the comfort level or needs of the partner. He/she also makes sexually degrading jokes about the partner.
  • Disrespectful or Cruel to Others: Generally dismissive; punishes children and animals a lot; teases children until they cry; insensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
  • Verbal Abuse of Any Kind; physical abuse of any kind; threats of any kind; harming property in any way: All these behaviours create a controlling atmosphere based on fear, and intimidation.
  • Past Abusive Relationships: Eventually, people may learn that a partner was abusive in past relationships. The abusive person may say that is a lie; protest that the former partner is crazy or vengeful; or will minimize the abuse or characterize it as unique to the former relationship. Abuse is a pattern that will continue in all relationships without appropriate intervention.

Signs that a person is being abused:

  • The person’s partner exhibits several of the signs listed above: Though the abused person exhibits no outward signs, the partner appears to be abusive, based on the above.
  • Withdraws from others: Reduces communication with family, friends, colleagues; has little or no social life; stops attending events or participating in activities formerly enjoyed
  • Personality and/or mood changes: Seems more guarded; less outgoing; has mood swings; depressed and/or anxious; may seem more “hyper”, “fearful”, etc.
  • Won’t make decisions: Increasingly indecisive; may be “flustered” due to eroding self-esteem; needs to ask or consult with partner about almost anything.
  • Limited access to money: Rarely has money for personal spending; often says “can’t afford” that; needs to ask partner for money; has to justify or explain purchases (even groceries).
  • May hint about problems: May refer to conflict or arguments at home; wonder how to make the relationship work; refer to a partner’s “anger”, “temper”, or “stress”, etc. – increasingly.
  • Chronic health problems; bruises/injuries not adequately explained: Frequent headaches, colds, etc; absenteeism; weird explanations (falls down a lot, walk into things, etc.).
  • Uses drugs and alcohol to “self-medicate” or cope: Increased drinking; prescribed medications (anti-depressants, pain-killers, etc.) – deals with the effects of abuse, not the abuse itself
  • Talks about partner’s substance abuse: May use substance abuse to explain or justify partner’s behaviour; remember, however, that substance abuse does not cause domestic abuse.

Signs that a child or teen is exposed to intimate partner abuse

  • Appears to be neglected: Clothing and hygiene unkempt; parents late to pick up/drop off at school/other activities; missed appointments; lunches, forms, library books, etc., forgotten; etc.
  • Changes in personality/behaviour: May become passive/withdrawn, or aggressive and angry; may become easily distracted or overly focused; may have mood swings; may be a bully, etc.
  • Hyper-vigilant or overly responsible: Needs to be perfect (“good”), defers to/takes care of others; at home, is overly responsible for housework, siblings, care of abused parent, etc.
  • Fearful of parental reactions: Guarded and watchful around parents; “in tune” with parents’ feelings, moods, etc; may visibly flinch if parents become even slightly angry, etc.
  • Talks about parents’ anger and fighting: Fighting may be spoken of as normal, “joked” about or downplayed; likely warned not to talk about “family secrets” but may do so anyway
  • Smokes and/or abuses substance: Older children (11+) may use substances to self-medicate or feel cool or in control (“adult”); may have easy access to substances within the home.
  • “Excessive” non-compliance: Breaks school/social rules; socially immature; poor academic achievement; disrespectful; verbally abusive; petty crime; high risk behaviour; runs away, etc. (Behaviour is due to neglect and exposure to abuse; punishment is not an effective response.)
  • Mistakenly “diagnosed” as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Many of these “signs” are similar to behaviours commonly associated with ADHD – avoid making assumptions or mis- diagnosing based on behaviour alone.)
  • At risk of being directly abused: About 60% of children exposed to spousal abuse are them-selves abused; high risk of physical and sexual abuse; along with the above, may have poorly explained injuries/illnesses; may have inappropriate knowledge of sex/sexual behaviour, etc.