Common Signs of Domestic Abuse

Does your intimate partner do hurtful things, say sorry, and promise to never do it again, until the next time it happens?

Are you afraid of your spouse? Are you scared to say what you think, bring up certain topics, or even say no to sex?

Does your relationship leave you feeling scared, isolated, confused, betrayed, or like you never know what’s coming next.  

Do you feel like you’re going crazy, second guessing yourself all the time, or that you are the one to blame for the conflict in your relationship?

If you feel any of these things, you may well be in an abusive relationship.

Abusive Relationship

I’ve written about toxic relationships, but an abusive relationship takes toxic to another level.

How do you know if you are being abused and that it’s not just all in your head as your spouse may be telling you?

Defining Abuse

Domestic abuse includes any attempt by one person in an intimate relationship or marriage to dominate and control the other. The abuse is used for one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. The abuser will use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to keep you under their thumb.

Let’s take an in-depth look at common signs of domestic abuse:[i]

Child Abuse

  • Threatening to harm your children
  • Threatening to take your children away
  • Not paying child support
  • Using children as leverage
  • Belittling you in front of your children
  • Using your children to keep you silent
  • Abusing your children

Cultural Abuse

  • Using culture as an excuse for abuse or mistreatment
  • Putting down your culture
  • Forcing you to accept or embrace their cultural practices
  • Using their culture or your culture to keep you silent
  • Using language barriers to isolate you
  • Not providing translation when you can’t understand

Emotional Abuse

  • Incessant teasing
  • Invalidating your feelings
  • Using guilt to manipulate you
  • Blaming you for everything
  • Acting jealous and calling it protective
  • Threatening you
  • Withholding affection
  • Waking you from sleep
  • Stalking your whereabouts
  • Stalking your social media
  • Giving you the silent treatment

Financial Abuse

  • Limiting your access to money
  • Not sharing bank accounts
  • Requiring an account of every cent
  • Making you ask for money
  • Making financial decisions without you
  • Creating debt you didn’t know about or agree with
  • Closing accounts without telling you
  • Confiscating your income

Intellectual Abuse

  • Telling you you’re “over-sensitive” or “crazy”
  • Manipulating information or facts
  • Attacking or laughing at your ideas
  • Devaluing your opinions
  • Demanding perfection (but they don’t do what they expect of you)
  • Playing mind games
  • Making you prove everything
  • Shaming your tastes
  • Insulting your education
  • Dumbing you down

Property Abuse

  • Destroying or damaging your property
  • Breaking or smashing things
  • Punching walls/slamming doors
  • Hurting pets
  • Confiscating your keys
  • Keeping your ID or driver’s licence
  • Selling items without telling you
  • Keeping cash from selling things
  • Threatening to do any of the above

Physical Abuse

  • Slapping, hitting, kicking, punching, biting, or pinching you
  • Restraining or choking
  • Spitting on you or at you
  • Intimidating you with actions or gestures
  • Throwing things at you
  • Using items other than hands to hurt you
  • Locking you out of the house
  • Making you sleep outside
  • Blocking exits, not letting you leave

Psychological Abuse

  • Saying things and denying it later (called gaslighting)
  • Intimidating you with words, gestures, or actions
  • Displaying weapons
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • Threatening to hurt or kill you
  • Minimizing actions or threats after the fact
  • Making it sound like you misunderstood or made it up
  • Controlling your access to food.
  • Dictating what you eat
  • Using gestures or body language to control you through fear

Sexual Abuse

  • Using pornography
  • Demanding that you use pornography
  • Demanding sex as payment
  • Withholding sex
  • Criticizing your body sexually
  • Comparing your sexuality to others
  • Having an affair
  • Threatening to have an affair
  • Forcing sex (even within marriage)
  • Manipulating sex (even in marriage)
  • Sexual putdowns
  • Sexually abusing others

Social Abuse

  • Isolating you from friends or family
  • Monitoring your phone calls, emails, and social media
  • Monitoring your mileage
  • Controlling who you see or talk to
  • Controlling your freedom to work or access to education
  • Keeping you at home
  • Telling you not to talk about your relationship, challenges, or problems with other people

Spiritual Abuse

  • Using scripture to excuse abusive behaviour or manipulate you
  • Twisting scripture to gain power
  • Putting down your beliefs
  • Using church to gain advantage over you
  • Refusing to get counselling
  • Dictating whom you are allowed to see for counselling
  • Using scripture to keep you silent

Verbal Abuse

  • Calling you names
  • Swearing at you
  • Yelling or screaming
  • Using sarcasm to put you down
  • Being condescending
  • Insulting you
  • Body-shaming you
  • Cutting you off in conversation
  • Telling you to be quiet around other people
  • Intimidating you to keep you silent

That’s a heavy list of stuff and it may be easier to deny that you are in a toxic or abusive relationship than to acknowledge that someone you love is abusing you. But if you continue to allow yourself to be mistreated it will destroy you as a person.

Being controlled and dominated, used or abused, is not God’s purpose or plan for your life, and you should not continue tolerating it.

Abusive behaviour is never acceptable. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.

For more on domestic abuse, read Domestic Violence and Abuse

Have you experienced any of these forms of abuse? Do you know someone who is in an abusive situation? Please share this list with them!


[i] Source: Adapted from Sarah McDugal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuJWiV60l6w&list=PL9WSC9P1z2VeUymnDUCmTrF1DuzVphhyO&index=4&t=0s

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

2 COMMENTS

  1. 18 Signs of a Toxic Relationship - Love More to Live | 1st Jul 20

    […] For more on domestic abuse read Common Signs of Domestic Abuse […]

  2. What to do if you are in an Abusive Relationship - Love More to Live | 8th Jul 20

    […] Men may stay stuck in abusive relationships because they are embarrassed to admit that a woman is abusing them. Don’t minimise the abuse. Call it what it is. If you are not sure that you are being abused, read Common Signs of Domestic Abuse. […]

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