As much as we'd like to believe that domestic abuse is a rare problem, statistics tell another story. The U.S. Bureau of Justice's report on domestic violence from 2003-2012 reveals that about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have suffered from intimate partner abuse as adults.
Although many domestic violence cases involve physical abuse, others are centered on verbal, emotional, or even financial abuse. Many people who are in an abusive relationship don't want to talk about it because they feel scared or ashamed. Some people don't even realize that their partner's behavior constitutes abuse.
It can be very difficult to spot the early signs of abuse, especially if the abuse isn't physical. While social workers are trained to identify different types of abuse, we all need to become familiar with the danger signs within a relationship in order to protect others and ourselves. Here's why it's so hard to see the early warning signs—and what you can do if you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship.
Recognizing Red Flags
As humans, we notice red flags all the time, but we also have a tendency to brush them off, especially if they seem minor. Some red flags can even seem positive at the beginning of a relationship, like telling you you're perfect all the time. When you're swept up in a new relationship, someone who showers you with attention can feel amazing—even if it's unhealthy.
There are tons of red flags that could come up before a relationship gets abusive and toxic. These can include trying to get between you and your loved ones, not respecting your physical boundaries, name-calling, and severe mood swings. Another common red flag is asking for your passwords or trying to read your texts.
We should all learn to spot red flags in relationships. Abusers might seem sweet at first, but there are telltale signs that their attention could become toxic in the future. Learning not to brush off red flags as insignificant can be difficult, but it can prevent a lot of painful experiences in the future.
What is Love Bombing?
One of the most common reasons people stay with an abusive partner is that they love them! The abuser may have used a tactic called "love bombing" early on to win love and affection. Love bombing describes using compliments, gifts, attention, and other methods of "wooing" to build a relationship.
Without love bombing, most people wouldn't stay in a relationship very long. But since they've seen this sweet, charming, and romantic side of their partner, they desperately want it back. They might try even harder to "win back" their abusive partner's affection and "good side."
Spotting the "Honeymoon Period"
Love bombing usually occurs during the "honeymoon period" of a relationship. When everything is new and exciting, people are usually on their best behavior or are at their most manipulative. While some abusers might go through cycles of love bombing and toxic behavior, every situation is different.
It's so easy to ignore red flags during the honeymoon period, but it's important to stay aware of what is and isn't appropriate, even when you're caught up in the excitement of a new relationship. You can enjoy the honeymoon period, but you also need to be aware that things could change and those red flags will still be there after the honeymoon is over.
How to Seek Help
It can be hard to seek help for a friend in a domestic abuse situation and harder still to seek help for yourself. Strong feelings are involved and abusers can be incredibly manipulative, whether they're cutting off access to finances, making threats, or using charm to get what they want.
If you're seeing red flags of abuse, though, it's important to get help as soon as possible before things escalate. If you're a college student, you might be able to access resources for sexual violence and abuse on campus. There's also a confidential hotline anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse can call.No one has to deal with an abusive relationship alone. Recognizing the problem is the first and most important step. After that, you just need to prioritize your own well-being and reach out for the support that's there for you.