What Are Some Of The Signs Of Domestic Violence

Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact theDomestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

As the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience physical violence from an intimate partner at some point. Additionally, many more people experience types of non-physical domestic abuse—including emotional, financial, or technological abuse—meaning that you very likely know and care about someone who has experienced abuse. 

If you take the time to educate yourself on the warning signs of domestic violence, you might be able to help yourself or someone you care about who’s experiencing intimate partner violence.

Are you healing from the aftereffects of domestic violence?

Signs of domestic violence

Are you in a domestic violence situation? Would you know if you were? You should look out for some different signs if you think you or someone else you know may be in trouble.  Domestic or dating violence isn't just about physical violence, and it's important to understand that you could be in an abusive situation without your partner ever laying a hand on you. Make sure you look at each of these different types of domestic abuse and how they could affect you.

Physical violence

This is where most people think of domestic violence, and it's one of the most obvious ones. If your partner hits, kicks, pinches, shoves, or otherwise physically attacks you; it may be fairly obvious to recognize that something is wrong. That doesn't mean that it's easier to leave, just that it's easier to recognize that what they are doing is wrong or what they are doing is a type of abuse. It's simple for those on the outside to see that something is happening because there are physical signs of it in the form of bruises, burns, cuts, or anything else.

It's important to note, however, that physical violence does not need to leave marks either. A slap or a kick may not always leave a mark behind, but it's still physical violence, and it is still domestic violence. There are some other types of domestic violence as well that may or may not leave physical marks. Also, other types of domestic violence may occur on their own, or they may occur in conjunction with physical violence. Your situation is likely to be unique to you.

You know if you are in a relationship where your partner has crossed the line by causing you any physical harm. However, it's not always so easy to spot this in other people's relationships. Some of the signs that you can look for if you think someone else is being physically abused include:

  • Having frequent injuries that are quickly explained (ex: Someone experiencing physical violence may offer an explanation like, “I fell down the stairs,” or “I tripped”)
  • Frequent trips to emergency or urgent care
  • Visible signs of injury, such as cuts, bruises, black eyes, limps, etc.
  • Exaggerated or repetitive flinching to non-threatening stimuli 

Sexual violence

Another type of physical violence, but a sub-classification, is sexual violence. There is a mistaken belief that if you are married or in a relationship, you can't be raped by your partner. However, this is not the case. Your body is your own to do what you want with, whether you are in a relationship or not, and that means you have the right to say no to your partner at any time. Rape, withholding or forcing birth control, denying or forcing abortion, or anything else that has to do with your reproductive health is sexual violence and a form of domestic violence.

Financial abuse

Did you know that withholding money or keeping you from getting a job is a type of abuse? Many people don't realize it, but financial abuse is a type of domestic violence, and it’s often used to gain control and force the victim to stay in an unhealthy relationship. A partner who refuses to allow you to get a job or pursue your education or someone who does not allow the other to have money in the household (whether one or both partners are earning that money) is perpetrating domestic violence. Food, clothing, or other items may be withheld as a form of financial abuse as well.

Psychological abuse

Getty/Vadym Pastuk

In some instances, this type of abuse may be difficult to prove in a court of law, but it's often extremely difficult to experience. If your partner uses intimidation or fear tactics to get you to do what they want you to do or to force you to follow their rules, it is considered psychological abuse. Forcing you to ask for permission to talk to others or do the things you want or even using emotional blackmail, threats of violence, or physical restraint to keep you from doing the things you want to do is considered domestic violence.

Emotional abuse

Finally, we come to emotional abuse, where the partner uses your thoughts and feelings against you, causing feelings of humiliation or subjecting you to insults and criticism, which may occur behind closed doors or even in front of others. They may make you feel bad about yourself or cause damage to your self-worth. These types of abuse are difficult to prove and difficult even for the person suffering to recognize because it happens so gradually and wears down the self-esteem so much that the individual may not even realize that it's abusive in the first place.

Verbal abuse

Verbal abuse is exactly what it sounds like. It's when your partner calls you names, belittles you, or insults you in other ways verbally. This goes hand in hand with emotional abuse. Even if you don't think that the words they are saying are causing you any harm, it can be damaging to your self-esteem and internal sense of self. When someone is repeatedly subjected to verbal abuse, they can start to believe what is being said about them.

One type of abuse is not better than another

Some individuals experiencing abuse will use the excuse that other abuse types are worse than they are experiencing. Most people think that physical abuse is the worst because you can see the results of it. People experiencing other types of abuse will usually stay in the relationship, saying that they would leave if it reached the point of physical abuse. However, this usually doesn't end up being true either.

The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the harder it usually is to get out. You might start to become familiar with the way the relationship is, and the thought of walking away from it seems almost impossible. One of the reasons this happens is that you have become controlled by the other person. They use fear and intimidation, even if it's done indirectly, to keep you right where you are. You are too afraid to leave because you don't know what that would look like, and you may feel that you need to be with the other person.

Love in abusive relationships

Love can exist in abusive relationships, but it's not a healthy form of love. You should never love someone out of fear or because you think that you are helping them. While no relationship is perfect, if someone loves you, they want what is best for you, never abuse.

If someone is abusing you in any way, they may have feelings of love for you, and you may love them despite it, but it's not healthy to stay in the relationship the way that it currently is. You need to get help.

Getting help

No matter what type of abuse you may be going through, getting help will always be important. Don't suffer through any abuse for any reason. Your partner does not have the right to treat you that way, and you do not need to suffer any longer. Of course, it can be extremely difficult to leave an abusive situation, and that's why getting additional help is an important step for domestic violence prevention. Finding friends and family who can help you is a great way to start because they can give you somewhere to go when you finally leave the situation or give you the support you need to leave finally.

If that isn't enough, or if you've just left a domestic violence situation, you should seek professional help to get you through it. A mental health professional can help you better understand what you're experiencing, what you're feeling, and what you've been going through as well. They will be able to help you work through everything and start to get your life back on track in whatever way possible. This can help you start living the life you want to live instead of being trapped any longer.

An online therapy platform like Regain can help connect you to a mental health professional that you can feel comfortable with. This system is entirely online and allows you to connect without going to a psychiatrist's office. It’s often more affordable and cost-effective than in-person therapy, and you can find a provider whose schedule is compatible with yours (and your partners, if you decide to try couple’s therapy). 

If you think you lack the knowledge and understanding that you need to overcome a domestic violence experience, you may perhaps ask your therapist if they can offer domestic violence classes. Research supports that online therapy can help survivors of domestic violence navigate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder after they’ve left the abusive situation.


Getty/Halfpoint Images
Are you healing from the aftereffects of domestic violence?

The most important thing if you are in an abusive relationship is to keep yourself safe. If you have been physically abused, then you need to seriously consider leaving and learn how to do so as safely as possible. A counselor or non-profit organization working with people in similar situations can help you create a plan to leave. You will need to have a place that you can go to, and you'll want it to be a place where your partner will not be able to find you.

If you have children, it is even more important that you know the right way to leave the situation so you are not forced into putting your children into an unsafe situation.

Leaving the situation to yourself does not necessarily mean that your relationship has to end, but you need to reach a place to decide your next step. You are not able to think through this step when you are in a dangerous situation.

Couples counseling could be an option to help you improve your relationship, or it could be what you need to help you realize that your relationship is not safe, physically or mentally, for you to continue in.

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