People enter relationships to add value to their lives in many ways. Some are looking for love, some seek companionship, and others are looking for someone to take care of them. Unfortunately, not all relationships are built on healthy foundations. Some relationships are based on power and control, leading to domestic violence. If you’re in a relationship, it’s important to be able to spot the signs of domestic violence to keep yourself safe.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a toxic pattern of uncalled-for, controlling behavior that can include a combination of physical, emotional, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse. It can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Domestic violence is about one person maintaining power and control over another. It can happen in relationships of all types — married couples, heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, siblings, or even between parents and children.

There are four main types of domestic violence: physical, emotional, financial, and sexual:

  • Physical abuse is when someone uses physical force to harm you. This can include hitting someone across the mouth, slapping their face, kicking their body, choking, or threatening them with
  • Emotional abuse is when an abuser uses words and actions to control you and make you feel bad about yourself. This can include name-calling, insults, belittling comments, withholding affection, and threats.
  • Financial abuse is using money as a force to control you. This can include preventing you from working, making you ask for money, giving you an allowance, destroying your credit, and hiding assets.
  • Sexual abuse is forced engagement in sexual activity against your will. This can include rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

Domestic violence is never the victim’s fault. No one deserves to face abuse, no matter what. If you’re in a relationship where you’re being abused, it’s important to get help from law enforcement, community organizations specializing in domestic violence, and legal assistance.

What Are the Warning Signs of Domestic Violence?

Different warning signs can indicate you’re in an abusive relationship. It’s important to be aware of these signs so you can identify them early on and get help if necessary.

  • Change in personality. One of the biggest warning signs of domestic violence is a change in your partner’s personality. If your partner suddenly becomes more possessive, jealous, or angry, it could be a sign that they’re feeling insecure in the relationship and are trying to control you.
  • A change in behavior towards you. Another warning sign is a change in your partner’s behavior toward you. If they start to isolate you from your friends and family, control what you wear or where you go, track your phone calls or emails, or tell you what to do, it’s a sign that they’re trying to control you.
  • An increase in violent behavior. A change in your partner’s level of violence is another clear warning sign. If they start to threaten you or become more physically aggressive, it’s a sign that the abuse is escalating, and you need to get help. It’s easy for some to excuse away a “minor” act of violence, but any act of violence is unacceptable, even if it is not directed toward you, and all acts of minor violence have the potential to escalate into something more serious.
  • A switch in the roles. In a healthy relationship, both partners should feel equal. If you find that your partner is starting to treat you like a child or a servant, it’s a sign that they’re trying to control you. For example, if they start to tell you what to wear or what to eat, it’s an indication that something is wrong and has the potential to escalate.

What Can You Do to Keep Yourself Safe?

If you’re in an abusive relationship, the following tips can help you keep yourself safe:

  1. Create a safety plan. This is a plan that you create ahead of time to help you escape a dangerous situation. It should include action steps like how to exit your home quickly, who to call for help, or knowing where in the home you can isolate yourself against immediate danger.
  2. Get support from friends, family, or a domestic violence hotline. These people can provide you with emotional support and practical advice. They can also help you create a safety plan.
  3. Tell someone you trust about the abuse. This person can be a friend, family member, therapist, or hotline worker. Telling someone about the abuse can help you feel less alone and can be a first step towards getting more help.
  4. Keep a record of the abuse. This can be helpful if you decide to get a restraining order or if you need to go to court. Keep copies of any text messages, emails, photos of bruises and injuries, or other evidence of the abuse.
  5. Get a restraining order. This is a legal order that requires your abuser to stay away from you. It can also give you other legal protections, such as custody of your children or the right to keep your home.
  6. Leave the relationship. This is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself safe. It’s not always easy, but there are many resources available to help you. If you’re not ready to leave, there are still things you can do to keep yourself safe.
  7. Seek therapy. If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, you may benefit from therapy. Therapy can help you deal with the trauma of the abuse and learn how to have healthy relationships.

There is no one right way to deal with domestic violence. What’s most important is that you do what feels right for you and that you get help if you need it. You have a right to be safe and to be treated with respect. Seek professional help if you find yourself in an abusive relationship or if you know someone who is in one.

Consult an Attorney

If you are a victim of domestic violence, there are a number of legal options available to you. You can get a restraining order, file for divorce, or file criminal charges against your abuser. Consult with an attorney to discuss your legal options. The results of any criminal proceedings could have a significant impact on your divorce or custody case, so it is important to reach out to your Midwest divorce attorney before taking any legal action.