Signs a loved one is in an abusive relationship, and what to do about it.
The numbers send a chill down your spine. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. On average, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. This equates to over 10 million people each year.
Abusive relationships are all around us. If a loved one is trapped in one, what can you do to help? Here are some tips from us at Stenzel Clinical.
What to watch for
Constant excuses. If someone is always apologizing for their partner’s behavior or making excuses to avoid contact or cover up visible injuries, it might be a sign something is going on.
Personality changes. Are you noticing more mood swings? Behavior that doesn’t fit the person you know and love? Depression and anxiety above and beyond what you’ve seen before?
Firsthand abuse. You will most likely never witness your loved one being physically abused, but chances are you’ll see their partner putting them down or being irrationally jealous and overly dominant.
What to do
It is always okay to ask your loved one if everything is okay. If you learn that they are indeed in an abusive relationship, remind them that they are loved, they have value, and they do not deserve violent treatment under any circumstances.
An abuser has complete power and control, so empower your loved one. Do this by acknowledging their scary situation, support them and listen to them.
Encourage your loved one to talk with professionals. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is an excellent resource. Tell them to call 800-799-SAFE any time they need it.
Encourage them to participate. Engaging in activities with family and friends is an excellent way to support and empower your loved one.
What not to do
Don’t judge their decisions. The cycle of abuse (from tension to incident to reconciliation to calm and back to tension) is a powerful trap, and thus, it takes many attempts to fully leave an abuser before it’s finally done. Your loved one is likely an optimistic person, someone who sees the best in people and believes they can change. Support them always, and never give them a guilt trip.
Don’t try to save them. It’s all too easy to go into superhero mode and threaten their partner with retaliation. But if you do become angry and take action, your loved one will be just as powerless as they were before. Remember, leaving an abusive relationship takes immense power and courage.
If needed, we are here
At Stenzel Clinical, one of our services is to help people discuss, navigate and ultimately break free from abuse. It takes time and work, but it is possible to feel clean and whole again. If you feel we could be of use, talk to us any time.