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Know the signs of abuse

By Michele Okimura

You may recognize many of the following names:

Reese Witherspoon

Oprah Winfrey

Whitney Houston

Halle Berry



Tina Turner

Gwyneth Paltrow

Mariah Cary

Johnny Depp

What do these celebrities have in common? They were all at one time the victim of an abusive relationship. It happens, and it can happen to you if you aren’t’ aware of the signs.

Becoming involved in an abusive relationship is more common than you think! I recently had coffee with a girlfriend who shared about her abusive boyfriend that she had as a young adult woman in her early 20s. Her boyfriend had been mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive towards her for years. She eventually got out of it, but she went through a long journey of healing. She now works in a law office along with several other young adult women co-workers. She shared that she observed their behavior over many months – like how they would nervously rush to answer their phone and other behaviors she used to have when she was in an abusive relationship. She had her suspicions…and her hunches proved correct as over time, 11 of the women confessed they were in abusive relationships with their boyfriends! She is trying to be of help to them. Wow. It can be that common.

One key way to avoid being involved in an abusive relationship is to learn what makes up a healthy relationship. Invest in learning what a healthy, respectful, honoring, loving relationship looks like!

You might wonder, well why on earth would someone get involved with an abusive partner? The relationship typically does not begin that way. Usually, the new friend is initially kind, friendly, charming, and loving. So, you can see how a person can get easily bonded to their new partner – even fall in love!

It is best to be aware of the early signs of an abusive relationship, since it is easier to leave a controlling, abusive relationship early on rather than after a long period of time.

If a girl or woman who is in an abusive relationship decides to leave, then she really needs outside professional help to safely leave the relationship by having a safety plan.

If you are in an abusive relationship, you may find yourself often feeling fearful, anxious, hopeless, shame, confused, depressed, and guilty in the relationship. You may also suffer with nightmares due to the trauma you are experiencing.

Note: There is such a thing as trauma bonding (A trauma bonding relationship is reflective of an attachment created by repeated physical or emotional trauma with intermittent positive reinforcement)

There are 3 main types of abuse:

Physical Abuse: This happens when a person is physically hurt through means such as kicking, hitting, choking or pinching.


  • The person displays a violent temper

  • Displays cruelty to animals or children

Mental and Emotional Abuse: This happens when a person is controlled, manipulated and intimidated in the relationship. This type of abuse causes the victim to feel mental stress and fear.


  • A little jealousy can be normal, but extreme jealousy is a red flag.

  • Your partner has a very bad temper and yells and swears when angry.

  • Your partner tries to isolate you from your friends and family over time, so he/she has you all to him/herself.

  • You feel your voice is ‘silenced’ and you don’t get to have a say in a lot of decisions.

  • There is growing control over your life as how you dress, your schedule, and your activities. In extreme cases, even permission to go the restroom is required by the abuser.

  • You are manipulated by threats to harm him/herself, you, and/or people you care about if you don’t do what is wanted.

  • You are being ridiculed, criticized, and put down regularly.

  • Your partner publicly humiliates you.

Sexual Abuse: This can happen in nonconsensual or unwanted sexual behaviors.


  • You are forced to watch pornography when you don’t want to.

  • Your partner inappropriately touches you and forces you to have sex (rape) without your consent.

  • Your partner may manipulate you by making you feel guilty or fearful if you don’t comply to their demands.

  • Your partner forcibly takes off your clothes or makes you do things sexually that you don’t want to do.

How to Support a Friend in an Abusive Relationship

The main thing is to be there to support them. Let them know you are there should they want to leave the relationship and you can be a resource to them for outside professional help in helping them to leave the relationship safely. It is ultimately their choice to leave the relationship or not. Yet, you can be a supportive friend in the process.

Domestic Abuse Hotline:


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