Abuse is so hard to define. Aside from the physical which is easy, all the other kinds of abuse can be defined a myriad of ways and this leaves the word open for easy use. Marriage is hard, I may not like some things, but I am not abused. How does one know that they are?
Abuse is definitely not as easy to recognize if it's not physical. It can take a really really long time to figure out you are being abused, especially because the abuser can be so skilled at convincing you that YOU are the one with all of the problems. One of the coping mechanisms (for me at least) can also be living in denial to the problems staring you in the face and/or justifying their existence if you happen to recognize them at all.
One of they keys to defining abuse is finding a pattern. Everyone has faults and acts unkindly at some point, but abuse is a noticeable pattern of behaviors. An absolutely amazing book on this subject is But He Never Hit Me: The Devastating Cost of Non-Physical Abuse to Girls and Women by Dr. Jill Murray.
Every woman who has been abused (or even thinks she has been abused) should read this!
There is also the blog Sanctuary for the Abused that I am just now starting to read through. There are many posts on their blog about recognizing different forms of abuse. Yesterday's post titled Verbal, Emotional & Physical Abuse is About Control, is especially helpful for learning signs of abusive behavior. I read it this morning and was blown away by it's accuracy.
Below is also a list found online that points to just a few of the ways a woman can determine if she is in an abusive relationship and I found it to be very accurate.
- Are you fearful of your partner a large percentage of the time?
- Do you avoid certain topics or spend a lot of time figuring out how to talk about certain topics so that you do not arouse your partner’s negative reaction or anger?
- Do you ever feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
- Do you sometimes wonder if you are the one who is crazy, that maybe you are overreacting to your partner’s behaviors?
- Are you afraid that your partner will try to take your children away from you?
- Do you feel that there is nowhere to turn for help?
- Are you feeling emotionally numb?
- Is your partner unpredictable?
- Is your partner a pleasant person between bouts of violence/anger?
- Has your partner threatened to take your children away from you, especially if you try to leave the relationship?
- Has your partner ever forced you to have sex when you didn’t want to?
- Does your partner destroy your belongings or household objects?
- Does your partner try to keep you from seeing your friends or family?
- Are you embarrassed to invite friends or family over to your house because of your partner’s behavior?
- Has your partner limited your access to money, the telephone, or the car?
- Does your partner try to stop you from going where you want to go outside of the house, or from doing what you want to do?
- Is your partner jealous and possessive, asking where you are going and where you have been, as if checking up on you?
- Does your partner always insist that they are right, even when they are clearly wrong?
There are many more example of abuse out there, but if the answer to any of those questions is yes, then that woman may be in an abusive relationship.
If anyone has any questions, or just wants to talk about this issue and doesn't want to do it publicly in the comments sections, please feel free to email me.