Domestic violence affects millions of families across the United States each year. While every relationship is different, there are some common patterns and red flags that may indicate an abusive relationship. Recognizing these signs early is crucial for identifying situations where domestic violence may be occurring and seeking help. This article explores seven of the most common red flags in domestic violence situations.
1. Controlling and Isolating Behaviors
A major indicator of domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling and isolating behaviors from one partner towards the other. This could involve monitoring or restricting access to finances, limiting contact with friends and family, demanding constant check-ins, or making major unilateral decisions about the relationship. Abusers often try to dictate their partner’s daily activities, relationships, clothing choices, health decisions and other areas of autonomy. They may forbid their partner from working, isolate them from support systems, or monitor their movements. Severe efforts to isolate a partner and restrict their individual autonomy is a glaring red flag.
2. Excessive Jealousy and Possessiveness
While some jealousy is normal in relationships, excessive and irrational jealousy is not. Abusers often interrogate their partners about benign events, browse their phones or emails without permission, make false accusations about cheating with no evidence, and angrily overreact to harmless interactions. They frequently question who their partner was talking to, where they were, and other details about how they spend their time. Abusers view their partner as an object they need to control, not an equal. Extreme jealousy, possessiveness and suspicions about cheating are very common in abusive relationships.
3. Verbal Abuse
Frequent yelling, insults, name-calling, mocking, threats, and other forms of verbal degradation are almost universal in violent relationships. Abusers may threaten violence, insult their partner’s intellect or appearance, accuse them of imaginary offenses, degrade their parenting abilities, compare them unfavorably to others, or continually blame them for the abuser’s own misbehavior. This constant verbal abuse chips away at victims’ self-esteem and ensures the abuser can retain psychological control. No one deserves regular verbal attacks.
4. Physical Violence
Physical abuse can of course manifest in extreme ways such as hitting, punching, kicking or other violent assaults. However, it’s important to remember that any unwanted physical contact—such as shoving, restraining, throwing things, destroying property, driving recklessly to scare the victim or other acts—constitutes abuse. While severe physical violence is easy to identify, “minor” forms of physical abuse still indicate an unhealthy and dangerous relationship dynamic. Violence of any kind should never be tolerated or be allowed to escalate.
5. Misogynistic Attitudes
While abuse victims can be any gender, overwhelmingly most domestic violence involves male aggressors and female victims. There is an undeniable correlation between violent relationships and male abusers holding misogynistic views of female inferiority, gender roles, resentment towards female independence, and sense of entitlement over women. These warped attitudes enable abuse by framing the female partner as less than human. Victim testimonies frequently reveal the abuser expressing beliefs that women exist to serve men.
6. Blaming Behavior
Abusers routinely shift blame to the victim when they perpetrate incidents of violence or other abuse. Common distortions include outright denying abuse occurred, minimizing the severity of assaults, falsely claiming the victim “provoked it”, or attributing causality to alcohol, drugs, stress, or other excuses. An abuser may beat their cowering partner then later insist it was just a “slap” that happened only because dinner was late. A refusal to fully own responsibility for abusive behavior and instead laying blame with the victim is a go-to tactic for domestic abusers to avoid consequences while continuing their domination of the victim.
Domestic violence almost never occurs as a one-off incident. Rather, abuse and controlling behaviors intensify over time in frequency and severity as the abuser tests limits of what they can inflict without consequences. Smaller scale incidents today often set the stage for more dangerous and lethal incidents tomorrow as the abuser continues to expand their criminal behaviors. Frequently abuse initiates with verbal attacks, advances to shoving or throwing things, then escalates to slaps, punches, use of weapons and serious physical harm. Allowing “minor” abuse at lower levels guarantees eventual escalation to crisis levels of endangerment.
Know the Signs, Seek Support
If the above red flags sound familiar, you may be in an abusive relationship requiring legal protections. Relationships characterized by control, violence, fear and degradation are profoundly unsafe and unacceptable. Every person deserves emotional and physical safety in intimate partnerships.
Help is available. Consider speaking confidentially with a domestic violence advocate or contacting us for advice on next steps like restraining orders, abuse reporting, divorce proceedings, child custody measures, or other protections and representation. You can visit one of our offices at:
- Bellevue – 10900 Northeast 4th St, Suite 2300, Bellevue, WA 98004
- Kirkland – 1207 Market St. Kirkland, WA 98033
Or call now for a free consultation on (206) 792-0981.