Is my friend being abused by their partner?
This is a difficult question to ask, and answer. The signs of domestic violence can be subtle, and even invisible. Verbal abuse, psychological manipulation, and financial exploitation are frequently present with or without physical violence, or physical evidence. If violence is physical, it’s often explained away as being clumsy or having an accident.
Domestic violence affects people of both genders and all walks of life. Here are 5 signs to help you better understand if what your friend is going through domestic abuse.
They isolate. DV victims withdraw from family and friends for several reasons. They may avoid social gatherings to avoid having to hide bruises and emotional distress. They may feel so much shame about their situation that they don’t feel like being around others. If their home is in disrepair due to violence and chaos, or if their abuser is outwardly controlling, they may not want to invite anyone over to witness the spectacle. Another reason for isolation: abusers want to distance victims from those who might try to help them and often undermine those relationships.
They lack access to money. Does your friend seem to be pinching pennies, even if they’re gainfully employed? What appears to be frugality could be a sign of financial abuse. Abusers often control their victims’ access to funds by forcing them to hand over paychecks, putting them on strict alliances, or running up debt.
They defer to their spouse for everything. In healthy relationships, partners feel safe to express divergent opinions. In abusive relationships, however, partners perpetually accommodate their spouses to avoid further abuse. If your friend appears to walk on eggshells around their partner, it may be a sign that they have good reason to fear disagreeing with a controlling or violent spouse.
They show signs of trauma. People who live in abusive environments tend to exhibit signs of trauma: hyper-vigilance (being on high-alert), extreme emotional reactions, depression, low self-esteem, and substance abuse. Is your friend always waiting for the other shoe to drop? Chronically anxious? Unusually self-critical? Drinking more than usual? If so, he or she may be reacting to the strain of living with an abusive partner.
They lack self-agency. Abusers use physical and psychological means to make victims stay stuck. They may tell victims they’re stupid and unlovable. They may threaten to destroy their reputations or “take the children so you’ll never see them again.” They also employ “gaslighting,” a manipulation technique to make victims doubt their perceptions: for instance, chiding them for mismanaging money when the abuser is, in fact, the one mismanaging it.
If you suspect your friend is going through domestic violence, you can support and empower them with these safety steps.
Leaving an abusive relationship can make you feel frightened, alone, and plagued with self-doubt. These are all things that your abuser wants you to feel to keep you trapped. Seeking support from safe people (friends, a DV counselor, a therapist, an attorney) will help you detach psychologically from your abuser and begin the journey towards empowerment.Our attorneys can help you with restraining orders, temporary spousal support and child support. You can get out. You can live well with your children and you can stay safe. Call us: (888) 888-0919.
If you are experiencing a domestic violence emergency, please contact 911 or your local police.