Sure, good people argue. They grow angry, frustrated, or scared. They may say or do things they regret. And married couples often adopt household roles voluntarily; one person might manage finances and work outside the home, while the other cares for their children.
But when the normal ebb and flow of a healthy relationship crosses lines, arguing becomes abusive and criminal. Unfortunately, it can be easy to normalize and subconsciously tolerate or minimize abusive behavior when you live that life, and cannot evaluate the situation from the perspective of an outsider looking in.
But there are context clues.
A chart from the National Domestic Violence Hotline gives numerous examples of physical and sexual abuse. These include:
- Insisting on sex without true consent
- Preventing you from leaving a room, car, or building
- Throwing things
- Strangulation (often mislabeled as "choking")
Emotional abuse may be less visible than physical abuse, but make no mistake: the following behaviors are still abusive.
- Keeping you isolated from former friends and family
- Calling you names and putting you down
- Gaslighting, or making you feel like you are irrational
- Humiliating you in front of others
- Blaming you for their own feelings of jealousy or anger
- Making you feel unimportant or treating you like a servant
Other abusive behaviors may not seem like physical or emotional abuse, but they are ways of controlling and hurting someone. These include:
- Preventing you from getting a job
- Controlling your finances and not allowing you to access money without asking
- Threatening to harm themselves or others if you do not comply with their wishes
- Showing you weapons or making gestures to intimidate you
- Denying events that happened
Getting out of these relationships safety
If you have suffered through these experiences, you may need help ending the relationship safely. Statistics have repeatedly revealed that separation from an abuser is actually the most dangerous time in such a relationship, especially if your partner is obsessed with control and willing to enforce it with violence. Here and here are links to information about this misunderstood problem.
A smart, first stop in your effort would be the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence, which offers a wide array of free services to DV survivors seeking to escape an abusive partnership. This includes safety planning, hotline services, and referrals to other resources - including lawyers or certified document preparers if you think you will have to go to court.
An attorney can obviously help in a number of ways, like pursuing an order of protection, shielding your residential location from public view, or trying to persuade the court not to place children in the care of someone dangerous.
Leaving an abusive relationship may not be easy, but it is possible. With the right guidance, you can put a painful chapter of your life behind you and focus on the future.