Monday, July 18 2011

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It can feel like someone is walking over us and hurting us with words

What do you imagine when you hear the words “abusive relationship”?

Many people think of violent scenarios like a woman being beaten by her partner, or a friend coming to school with a black eye after a fight with her boyfriend.

But victims of abusive relationships don’t always have obvious symptoms like bruises or black eyes. In fact, many of them have never been hit, beaten, punched or physically hurt in any way by their boyfriend or girlfriend.

We talk about violence a lot because it’s easy to recognise, but abuse isn’t limited to violence alone. Emotional violence can cause just as much damage as physical abuse without leaving a single scratch or scar.

How to spot an emotionally abusive relationship


Emotionally abusive relationships usually happen when one person tries to control the other person’s actions and behaviour. According to Reach Out, your relationship could be emotionally abusive if your partner is possessive, overly jealous and criticises you often.

This includes behaviours like:

  • Calling all the time to make sure you’re where you said you would be
  • Pressuring you into having sex or doing things you don’t want to do
  • Reading your diary or emails without permission
  • Accusing you of being unfaithful when you haven’t been
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Criticising you in front of others
  • Breaking things of value or threatening to use violence
  • Saying things like “If you dump me I’m going to kill myself”

For more warning signs, visit Domestic Violence NSW.

Victims of emotionally abusive relationships might start doing badly at school or uni; have trouble sleeping and spend less time with friends and family. Many of them don’t realise that their partners are abusive.

This video, Love Control, which is featured alongside others in The Tune In Not Out Domestic Violence page is a groundbreaking film produced by Women’s Health In the North. It draws directly from young women’s experiences of abusive relationships and shows how quickly controlling behaviour can escalate into full blown violence. Please note is does describe details of an abusive relationship that some may find disturbing.

Why do people stay in abusive relationships?


Young people with little relationship experience can confuse possessiveness and jealousy with love, and not recognise that their partner is hurting them. Abusive relationships eat away at self esteem and confidence, and victims can think that they aren’t strong enough to leave.

Abusive relationships aren’t abusive all the time, so it is also common for victims to downplay the abuse and focus on the good parts of the relationship.

Victims can be afraid of what their partner might do if they break up. Often they blame themselves for the abuse, but it is important to remember that abuse is never the victim’s fault.

What to do if you think you might be in an abusive relationship?


Talk to someone who you trust, like a parent, counsellor, teacher or close friend. Deciding to end the relationship can be daunting and it is normal to feel anxious and frightened, but remember that the abuse is not your fault and that you deserve to be treated better.

For more information

Check out the Safety and Violence section here on Tune In Not Out – here you will find factsheets and videos and also Reach Out who have put together a great fact sheet that explains abusive relationships in more depth. Another great site is Love. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

For 24 hour support, call the Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or Lifeline on 13 11 14.  If you feel that you are in immediate danger, call 000.

Blog post written by Amy    Twitter @AmyBirchall

Thank you to Student Edge for supporting the development of this blog through the provision on a rather fantastic Goodie Bag.

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Image Acknowledgement

Hurt by words Image By Chapendra under Creative Commons Licence

where is the love Image By Cactusbeetroot under Creative Commons Licence

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4 Responses to “Abusive relationships: More than just violence”

  1. Zoe K says:

    This is a really good blog. I think it’s also important to keep these in mind, however:

    1.) Not all abusive relationships are romantic. They can be in a family or even in a friendship.

    2.) Abusive people often give punishment for the smallest mistake or even for something they simply don’t agree with. The silent treatment is common, and often the ‘punishment’ goes on for longer than could ever be reasonable and makes being around this person feel intimidating or even scary.

    3.) Abusive people will play mindgames. They’ll say one thing, then deny they said it with the next breath. They often try to convince you that things went differently to how you remember, often to place blame.

    4.) Abusive people will always blame the victim – unless blaming themselves benefits them in some way.

    Many people are stuck in abusive relationships because abusive people often start off as very charming, lovable, caring and sweet – until you start trusting them. Often the things they do are very subtle, so that the victim feels powerless. The first step is talking to someone about it and making sure that you have at least one person you can talk to, who you can really trust.

    • Antoine says:

      Well there are different ideas as to what that resepct might be. In a case with intimate partner violence, the most resepctful thing to do might be to leave the abusive partner and encourage them to get help. Flat out indifference only feeds into their rage (thus perpetuating the cycle AND putting yourself in danger) and reacting violently back does the exact same thing (and it justifies their behavior). Respect yourself by trying to leave the situation, resepct them by not giving them outlet to exact their abuse on.

  2. Carolynn says:

    Speaking from experience:

    It was the hardest thing for me to leave the relationship, it was my ex’s mum who helped me get out of it. My friends didn’t understand what was going on and why I was feeling down.

    I still feel terrified in my current relationship, that I will be betrayed again and put back in a situation that I am being abused.

  3. Fithaw says:

    The question is, what are you chngniag if you let the obnoxious dickhead’ get you angry? Then you become his victim. Best response to a dickhead is no response. They HATE it when you give them NOTHING back.

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