Is It Abuse? How Can I Help?

Common questions from community members are “Is it abuse?” and “How can I help?” Many people are unsure as to what an abusive relationship looks like. They may have a feeling that something is not right in the relationship of a friend or relative, but are unsure and scared to bring up the subject. Abusive relationships may start out as what appears to be a very happy and healthy relationship. The behavior changes and suspicions are turn up slowly. Eventually the victims find themselves totally controlled by their partner. Abusers can be very charming, for that is how they draw people to them. It is later when the relationship is established that the controlling and even violent behavior is shown.

Signs of an Abuse Relationship

·         Cuts, bruises, scratches always with an excuse of walking into a door, falling down the steps, etc.


·         Pushing, shoving, slapped, punched, shaken, stalked


·         Forced to watch children or pets being abused


·         Called names, continually criticized

·         Not allowed access to financial resources or to help make financial decisions


·         Intentionally locked out of house

·         Accused unjustly and repeatedly of having affairs or flirting


·         Manipulated with lies such as the abuser threatening suicide

The above are just a few ways in which people are controlled and abused in relationships. In all too many cases, the abuse is well hidden by the victim. An important sign for loved ones to watch for is if the victim is isolated from family and friends. For example, the victim makes plans to go out with friends and then breaks date with an excuse. Isolation is a major weapon of abusers so that the victim’s life becomes all about the abuser and no one else. This keeps the victim from leaving or asking for help. So if you think a loved one may be in an abusive relationship, and you’re asking, “What do I do now?” First and most importantly be non-judgmental and supportive. Victims often may not realize that the situation has become as dire as it is, or they may be embarrassed and feel shameful. Let the person know that you care and are afraid for their safety. Explain what you are seeing and reassure them that they deserve to be treated with love and respect. While you may think that, the decision to leave is a simple clear-cut decision for the situation for the victim, it is anything but. Be patient and not surprised if the victim chooses to stay. This is not unusual as research show us that a victim will leave 7 times before leaving the relationship permanently. As a friend or family member of the victim this is heartbreaking and the reason that many abandon their loved one. It is important to stay connected to the victim because eventually when they are ready to leave they will need you. If the loved one does decide to stay, it is important to respect their decision even if you do not agree or understand it. If they stay work with them to design a safety plan, so if the situation spirals out of control they have a plan to follow to get safe. Lastly, it is important for friends and family to realize you cannot rescue the victim. While you may want to swoop in and move them out of the situation this is not helpful. Once again, the victim has no control over their life. The choice to leave must be theirs or it will not work. Watching your friend or family member be harmed is the hardest thing you will ever do in your life but it has to be their decision to leave. Be patient with the victim as they work through the leaving process and remain a source of support to them. The Watertown Resource Center provides services not only to the victims but also to the friends and family members of victims. It is important for friends and family members to seek help and guidance so they can remain in the lives of their loved ones. By staying connected, you may save a life. For help and guidance, please call the Watertown Resource Center at 605-886-4300 or 1-800-660-8014. Remember you are not alone in the battle against domestic violence!