Love Is…Knowing the Signs of Abuse to Help Yourself or a Friend

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Love Is…Knowing the Signs of Abuse to Help Yourself or a Friend

In October we launched The Hotline’s 15th anniversary with the debut of our “Love is” campaign. This campaign is aimed not only at raising awareness to our issue, but also ensuring people know they are not alone and help is available.

One component of raising awareness is ensuring people recognize the signs of domestic violence. Everyone needs to know what it is and how to spot it happening in their lives or in the lives of their friends.

Remember: Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.

Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone. It happens to all races, ages, sexual orientation, religion or gender. Is domestic violence something that only happens between married couples? No. While domestic violence does apply to married couples, it can also occur between people who are living together or who are dating.

We hope that by discussing what love is, we can help show what love is not – any form of abuse. Please join us in our campaign by telling us what you believe love is and by remembering these warning signs that you – or someone you know – may be in an abusive situation.

• Your partner humiliates you or puts you down
• Your partner makes you feel bad about yourself
• Your partner controls what you do, who you see, who you talk to, where the money is spent
• Your partner prevents you from getting or keeping a job
• Your partner tells you it is your fault he hurts you and if only you wouldn’t make him act this way
• Your partner uses the children to make you feel guilty or threatens to harm the children if you do not do what he says.

Also, remember we’re always here to talk at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). You are not alone. There is hope and there is help.

Additional info:

Be Smart. Be Well. “Domestic Violence: What Is It??”

Comment section

0 replies
  1. Well made video, it covers so many issues in a short time span. I think one of the most important things Women need to know is that there are early warning signs in a relationship and unfortunately, many of them appear flattering on the surface. Individuals who want to rush into a commitment or moving in together may appear as they are exemplifying true love, but is more likely an attempt to establish control. Face it, it feels nice when someone pays a lot attention to you in the early stages of a relationship, but you have to ask yourself, is this person ok with spending time apart? , do they listen to me and respect my thoughts or opinions? or all about romancing?
    Jenny H.

    1. Jenny,
      Thank you for contributing to the Share Your Voice Blog. You are certaintly right that individuals wanting to rush into a commitment or who pay extra attention to their partner are early warning signs of an abusive relationship. I like the questions you came up with to ask yourself during the early stages of a relationship. Take care.

    2. I can relate. You can get lost in feeling loved and forget about really knowing the person. If you tell yourself, you’ll find out later or you know him well enough for now, you could wind up married to a stranger especially when the mind games begin. Abusers make you feel like you don’t know anything and it’s all your fault. Sometimes they say that anything critical you say about their actions is overdone or you think nothing is your fault. Once they have you questioning everything you think, its all over.

  2. This is very good information for all women to know and be aware of.

    The Compassion Fashion Project is busy this week gaining ground in our communities and encouraging and inspiring others through awareness of domestic violence. This week we have teamed up with the “hottest” charity around, One Warm Coat, to donate coats this season to be distributed to anyone needing a coat including local women’s shelters.

    We also want to hear your thoughts, because speaking out can be cathartic and healing. If you or someone you love has something to share, please visit our blog and we may feature your words, artwork, music, or whatever outlet you love, to support and inspire others.

    Tis’ the season to be caring!

    Much love and peace~Meredith Cavaness Corning

    1. Hi Meredith,
      Thank you for contributing to the Share Your Voice Blog. We appreciate you for sharing this opportunity and for working to increase awareness about the issues of domestic violence

  3. If I knew then what I know now…I would have left before the storm. I married at 24 years old to a man 15 years my senior. My son was 4 years old at the time. This man was so loving, trustworthy, hard working, family oriented, smart, funny, etc…We both worked very hard to live a comfortable lifestyle. He was a bit anit-soical whereas I was more of the social outgoing type. I should have seen the signs of mental abuse when he said that we had nothing in common and of interest but still wanted to marry me because he said that I was “moldable.” Over the next several years, he became extremely controlling with family, work, my attire, my friends, my relationship with my son’s father. I started feeling distant from everyone because he would tell me that everyone was negative and he didn’t want me to have negative people in my life. He controlled our visits to see his family and would tell me what to say, what to wear, overall, give me the look of disgust anytime I was to him “out of line, or character”. In January of 2009 I finally had enough of the mental abuse and left. I moved into my friend’s house with my then 10 year old son. We continued to speak everyday and he promised that he would change and said that since we were married we needed to stick it out “for better or worse”. A couple of months later he went to visit me at my friend’s house with my son and friend there. My son was watching cartoons in the living room and my friend was in her room. He took me into the kitchen and told me that if I didn’t go back home with him that he was going to kill me. I replied “yeah right.” I turned to walk away from him and he went into the dishwasher, took a knife and the first stab was in my lung. Knocked down to the floor I thought he punched me. He continued 10 more times. I still continued to think that he was punching me. When I opened my eyes I saw the pool of blood and started screaming. At this point my son was screaming, “please don’t kill my mommy”. “Mommy, look at me, I love you.” My husband left the house and I stayed on the floor fighting for my life, listening to my son with the police on the phone. My husband committed suicide the next day because he thought that he killed me and wanted us to be together. He left a note in the car basically asking for forgiveness and said that “love drove him crazy.” If it weren’t for me going to church prior to this and learning about forgiveness I wouldn’t have been able to forgive and have peace and love in my heart to fight and be strong for myself and my son. God gave me the miracle of life and my future plan is to help those that have been affected by domestic violence, one person at a time.

  4. I have lived through domestic violence (thankfully, I lived), and I applaud any and all efforts to get a more open conversation started about this societal problem. I have been writing about my experience and hope it can help others: Thank you for everything you’re doing.

  5. Just A Woman,
    Thanks for contacting the Share Your Voice blog. I am glad to hear that you have been able to safely get out of your situation and that you are writing about your experience. It can be helpful to other people in similar situations who might feel like they are alone, with no one who understands what they’ve been through. I hope you will continue to find strength in speaking out about your experience and helping others understand that there can be life free of violence.

    NDVH Blog Admin

  6. We removed a post this morning because it contained personal identifying information that could be harmful to the person posting. We encourage the poster to contact Child Help USA, the National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD. Thank you for your understanding.

  7. I have been in a relationship with this man for three years now. We have had some domestic issues during this time. Never has he physically hurt me but used threats. He is presently in jail now for domestic violence against me. I tried to have the charges droped against him because he was not physical, but the state will not allow it to drop.I still love him very much and want to work out our relationship and our problems. My question is this…is it possible? Is there help for those who truly want help it work out their problems. can anyone give advice to me for my situation. Thanks Alabama

    1. Dear Laura,
      I am so sorry for what you are going through. I too am in a domestic violence situation and I can tell you that it will only get worse. I know you love him and want him to change, I think we all want our abusive spouses/boyfriends (assuming most of us are women) to change. I have begged my abusive husband to work on problems and go to counseling but any changes are very temporary and he always goes back to the way he was. Right now, you have a chance to get away while he is in jail. PLEASE don’t miss this opportunity to take care of yourself. Like I said, I know how much it hurts that he won’t change his ways but those threats will lead to violence. Even if they don’t, you will be miserable from years of mental abuse, like me. Trust me and everyone else on here who is going through the same thing. take a chance to save yourself in the long term.
      Good luck to you.

      1. Great advice, Georgia, for Laura.

        Sometimes we do need to take the small windows of opportunities when they arise. The trick is really recognizing when we have those windows of opportunities — right?

        NDVH Hotline Advocate_kk

  8. Also, you may wonder I don’t just leave if I’m telling you to…well, my husband has never been physically abusive but the mental abuse is horrible. So, he can’t go to jail for it and I can’t go into a shelter. If I were you and my husband ever did go to jail, I promise me and the kids would be out the same day and into a safe place for us.

  9. STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Why do women stay and call it love? I want my own experience to help even ONE other person to break the cycle of abuse and end the nightmare. Please be that person! Click on link. Love, Sarah

    HONEYMOON AND HELL is based on my own personal experience. It defines in a clear voice the emotional strongholds involved in an often very intense, sometimes very satisfying, and yet, very damaging intimate relationship.

    It is not a cautionary tale, but a navigational tool that succeeds in providing a path of hope beyond continued dedication to an abusive relationship.

    Domestic Violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background.

    This is a work expressly dedicated to every woman bravely willing to take the first tentative step to break the cycle of abuse.

  10. My mom is in abusive relationship and lives about an hr.away. Me and my sister arent allowed to call or go see her or send her mail he opens it throws it away or writes in it and sends it back saying your not welcome here ect…I cant take it no more I want to go up there he thretned he will call the cops and he has so controlled and she doesnt see this. She blocked all her friends,grandkids and friends and even her own brother. What is there to do its so sad and hurtful and I feel so powerless.

  11. Debbie,
    It sounds like your mom is being really isolated by her abuser. I’m sure that it’s been difficult to know that she’s in that situation, but to not know how to help, or even if there’s anything you can do. In a situation like this, there is no way to force your mom to see what is going on. If you could talk to her, you could try and offer support, but it sounds like even talking to her has become difficult now. It is really important that you take care of yourself so that if your mom does come around and reach out to you guys again, you can be a strong source of support to help her get through the abuse. It sounds like you really care for your mom and this has been difficult to not see her or talk to her. It is not uncommon for an abuser to isolate their partner from family and friends, who would be her strongest source of support. If you need to talk to someone, or to find local resources for assistance, you are always welcome to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Advocates are available 24/7 and everything is anonymous and confidential.

    Wishing you the best,
    NDVH Blog Admin

  12. I am currently seperated from my daughters father, do to an order of protection I have against him. We had been together for 4 years and I can honestly say I wasn’t happy even 1 year from it. I am do for trial next month & I am super scared because the last incident reported I dropped the charges, but he continued the mental, physical, verbal & emotional abuse. The hardest part is that he is a police officer & he might do time in jail & lose his job. He constantly threatened me by choking me & pointing hig gun at me, punched me everywhere but nowhere visible, he would humiliate me, put me down & tell me im nothing, he made it impossible for me to goto school or start a job, and sooo on. But he had control over me, I was a prisoner in his world & I couldnt anymore. I just turned 27 & felt like he was going to kill me if I didnt accuse him. I gave him sooo many chances & he got worse & worse. I felt worthless. I have his family pressuring me to drop the charges but I cant because he hurt me for too long & i have a son & daughter. His mom thinks because she put up with his dad beating her, that I have to do the same. Im just afraid because he made up lies about me to everyone & court to try to appear innocent. I dont know how I let him get away with so much, but I learned. I just wished my fear would go away.

  13. CDR Beauty:

    Your “fear”, as you keep mentioning in your comment, may be actually the one thing that keeps you safer. Sometimes it is the fear that keeps us more on our toes and much more observant of things happening around it. As much as we would like to find ourselves not being fearful and in fear all the time, it does serve to keep our intuition on top and our senses in check.

    Could you possibly mean that you wish that you could have your life “normalized” again? Even that term can often seem arbitrary; after all, how one person may define normalcy may be quite different from what may be described by another.

    In time, things do tend to settle down; however, chance are that you weren’t overnighted into the world of domestic violence environments; chances are that you won’t be wisked out of the world of domestic violence either. Unfortunately, there isn’t someone waving a wand for us to make things alright for us instantaneously. I so wish there were.

    There are some saftey things that we can do to ease our fears — especially in heightened sense of security such as the time you are approaching in going to trial, such as (and not necessarily limited to):

    1. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you take care of yourself – eat right, exercise, and sleep – because these things can do a lot to reduce anxieties, pressures, etc. Having ourselves well take care of can lend itself to us being able to be 100% alert, too, when needed.

    2. Be observant and use sensibility – meaning that you wouldn’t walk down a seedy looking alley necessarily by yourself — especially at night; likewise, take the same type of sensible precautions. Drive populated areas. Walk with a buddy shopping, going to and from the parking lots to work or school or court house. Keep your cell phone on you at all times; sometimes it isn’t bad idea to carry your keys in your hand at all times too.

    3. Keep a log of strange occurences, if you aren’t doing so already. These will help you to see what things you might need to be looking out for, as well as provide the police and district attorney some much needed information if it applies directly to your case. Don’t forget to include pieces of information, such as witness names and contact information (in case the district attorney will then want to subpoena them to the courtroom). Also, be sure to include times/dates that you call the police (or work security) as they have reports that can substantiate your log. Phone records, and saved text/voicemail messages can also serve to support your log as well.

    4. Use some sensibility when it comes to technology. In any social media you use, opt out of it showing your location. (Twitter is a popular program that also shows your location from where you are tweeting; others may be embedded in phone applications and other social media programs.) Also be careful if you mention anything about what you are doing that discloses anything about where you are, or going to be.

    5. Have a trusted mechanic or police department (not necessarily the same policing authority as your abuser’s department) scan your vehicle for GPS devices that can be used to locate you.

    6. Call the hotline (at 1-800-799-7233) to go over other safety strategies that might help you to remain calmer throughout this whole process, including what to do if your abuser is also a police officer. There are probably some safety strategy tips on our GET EDUCATED tab of this website as well.

    If you aren’t already connected with the domestic violence program in your local area, please let the hotline advocate that you speak to know that too. They can, not only connect you with a program that has a legal advocate, also connect you with a program that has a “court accompaniment”. This person can accompany you to court so that you feel less intimated by the Court process, etc., which brings up another point. The Court Clerk will often let you come to the courtroom ahead of time so that you can be introduced to how the court will work in case you have never been to a court process like this before which is always helpful.

    It wasn’t clear from your comment if the trial is because of the abuse, or if it was about a custody battle. If it is about a custody, please ask us, too, for some of those resources and links.

    Kudos for all the steps you have taken to become more of a survivor. Best wishes to you for the court room experience to be swift and just. Should you need any other help, we’re only but a phone call away and look forward to talking to you soon.

    NDVH Hotline Advocate_kk

    PS. Another helpful legalsite that can help you with some of the things legalwise is a site called, “Womens’ Law” ( Great resource if looking up by state some things related to domestic violence situations.

  14. Thank you for sharing that video. It is indeed a powerful statement.

    Just a quick FYI, somehow you had submitted the same video twice; therefore, we removed the duplicate.

    NDVH Blog Admin __kk

  15. Hi Sheri,
    It is very true how easy it is to get lost in feelings of love especially in a new relationship. Abusive people will often want a new relationship to move quickly. This is a red flag that the person might become controlling and/or abusive. You are right, abusers will make you feel like everything is your fault. Everything is not your fault! It can be so hard not to believe this after hearing it over and over. If you ever want to talk we are here 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233. Take care.
    Hotline Advocate-kl

  16. My son is engaged to a young lady that gets beat up by her father. She keeps telling him that she is going to move out, but every time she gets irritated with him, she runs home and gets beat up again. My son feels she is trying to protect her mother, who also gets beat up on a regular basis. I don’t know how to help them, but would like to try. I am so afraid of being allienated by my son, for interferring, but I live through this when I was a child.
    What should I do? Any advice at all?

  17. Wow. Watching that video gave me goose bumps because I’ve been there – lived through it, and ultimately survived. In 2004 I started a relationship with a man while I was going through a separation from my husband. I thought this man was sweeter than pie. He was gentle, kind, warm, attentive, and affectionate and I fell in love with him. As soon as my separation from my husband was final this man’s behavior became aggressive, possessive, controlling, unpredictable, and violent. At the time I was vulnerable and needy, I knew it and so did he and he preyed on it. Arguments escalated into violence against me. This unhealthy relationship lasted over 2 years and almost became my demise.

    I was physically abused, psychologically, and emotionally tortured by a man who I loved. For a while I stayed because of love, but as his violent behavior increased my love turned to fear – I was afraid to leave…afraid he’d harm my children or any loved ones of mine. Finally I had the opportunity to leave and I did, but it was anything but easy. Five months later, he chased me down a known Los Angeles street, pulled up on the side of my car – parallel to mine – pointing his gun at my face, he pulled the trigger shooting me through the left side of my neck. Tears fill my eyes because I could’ve easily died that night 4 years ago by an ex-boyfriend, I’m not disabled or psychologically damaged – I’ve been provided a second opportunity at life. Thank God, he can take the tragic, the painful, and our loss, and bring them together for good. He’s provided me with life, my children, family, wisdom, strength, and courage, which gives me motivation to tell my story to the world particularly to women in similar situations. I want to be a voice for those who can no longer defend themselves.

    My offender received 32 years to life in prison – I can’t express how I am overwhelmed with joy. Domestic violence is taking lives and leaving innocent children without their mothers. I speak from experience when I state women need to know their worth, have standards, self-esteem, and recognize they don’t need a man to validate them. Through my story I hope I can help other women before it becomes a fatality. This is an epidemic and it’s underrated. I want to help women be aware of the dangers of abuse because at some point it involves one’s death.

    Thank you

  18. Sharine,
    You are a survivor! Alot of times, abusive relationships start out similar to what happened in your situation. The abuser comes off as charming and Mr. Wonderful, who wants to take care of you. It can be a dream at first. Once they’ve gained some form of control in the situation, it can be really difficult to get away. Your story illustrates how dangerous is can be to leave an abusive situation. You’ve been through so much struggle and pain, but it’s amazing to hear that you have gotten through it and are stronger for it. That is an amazing story that will bring insight and hope to many other people in similar situations. Sharing your story helps empower people with the knowledge that they are not alone. If you need to find local support or are interested in getting involved, you can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Everything is anonymous and confidential, and we are here 24/7. We have listings for programs all over the U.S.; both on the local and national level.

    NDVH Advocate RE

    1. Hello thank you for your support 🙂 I seriously want to get involved, in fact I called today the NDVH and was referred to another number – another number and last another number. Finally when I reached a location in Los Angeles I was dissappointed that no one could really help me or wanted to provide any real info. They took my # and said they’d call back – I would think DV shelters or programs would like volunteers or assistance in any way, but I’m not discouraged I’ll keep on it until I have some luck 🙂 If at all possible it would be nice to get further assistance in regard to the programs and how I can get involved. Are the listings on this site? If not can you point me in the right direction please? Thank you so much.


  19. There are some programs listed on this website under the ‘Get Help’ section. It’s called ‘Help in Your Area.’ This is a list of state coalitions against domestic violence. Each DV program has individual guidelines and some of them out there might not have the capabilities to maintain a volunteer program. If you want to get involved, you can always calls us back and we can help contact some of the programs in our database if you’d like. We might get a better response during the daytime. Some programs have whether or not they have volunteer oportunities on their website too. If you want to volunteer, i’m sure there is a place that will happily have you there!

    Hotline Advocate RE

  20. Linda –

    That is indeed a difficult situation to be in. As a parent we want to protect our children, and that extends too to those that our children choose to be with.

    If you have an opportunity for some one-on-one time with her — even if it is just cooking dinner together at your home or washing up the dishes afterwards — you may want to just try to get to know her better. Eventually, she may open up to you more and reveal her situation to you more and thereby open the dialogue. After all, it can’t be meddling if the young lady brings the conversation up to you, right?

    Of course, if you ever see her with injuries or can tell that she’s been through an ordeal (such as still being very upset), that in itself certainly opens up the door for an opportunity to discuss things (allowing her to bring up the specifics) and it can’t be considered meddlling if you ask her, if she is okay? and, what happened? That’s only being able to show empathy and concern as an individual and a parent, even if you aren’t her parent directly.

    Please feel free to contact us at the hotline if you feel that you still have any questions or need further brainstorming on this.

    NDVH Hotline Advocate_kk

  21. I have a friend that has been suffering abuse for years. She has finally decided to escape the madness. Her safety plan is in place She just lacks money to survive on. She has no job because he won’t let her work and he controls all the money. So she has only been able to save a few dollars. If she doesn’t get far away from him he will hunt her down. He has before. This time she’s going to move far away from him. Every other time she has left him, she has only been a few miles away. The shelter here is in the same vacinity.

    Thank you, Tonya

  22. Tonya,

    Thank you for sharing on this blog. To maintain confidentiality on this blog and staying within our guidelines, we have removed identifying information from your posting.

    That being said though, economic hardships is a common theme among victims and survivors of domestic violence. Some domestic violence programs may have some emergency funds to assist on occasions and the United Way Agency (through calling 2-1-1) has many other resources for fund assistance in her community. Additionally, the Crime Victims Compensation fund is available for survivors to help defray costs of medical (related to the domestic violence), counseling (for herself and her children, if she has children), and moving expenses to a new location (which may also include up to 3 months rent, limited to about $600/month, depending on your State Compensation Fund set up). These are all designed to help get a survivor on a good foundation, such as your friend. If your friend contacts the hotline at 1-800-799-7233, we can certainly provide the appropriate Crime Victim Compensation Fund number for her particular state.

    Local banks and investment institutions often provide free workshops and seminars to better understand the management of money. Many will allow opening even a savings account for no to minimal amount of money to establish good banking relations, if she hasn’t already done so. State Coalitions may also be providing some economic training for survivors. We can certainly provide her with her particular State Coalition’s number so that she might contact them to see if they are offering and free webinars at this time on this subject matter, as well as provide her with a variety of other economic resources to help her get empowered in the right direction of successful survivorship.

    Insofar as shelters being in the same vicinity, that is indeed an issue and many of these shelters will suggest that the person seek shelter further away. Again, we can also help with finding other shelters that may be a little further from the immediate area.

    NDVH Hotline Advocate_kk

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