Is Your Loved One in an Abusive Relationship?

Is Your Loved One in an Abusive Relationship?

by Monesha, a Hotline advocate

loved one bystander“Why don’t they just leave already?”

This is a question we hear often from family members and friends of people who are experiencing domestic violence. It can be so frustrating and heartbreaking to see someone you care about remain in an abusive relationship, and many people want to immediately go and “rescue” their loved one or convince them to “just leave.” But unfortunately it is not that simple; doing this could be very dangerous or make the situation worse. In order to truly help a person in an abusive relationship, it’s important to try and understand what they are going through, why they might stay in the abusive relationship and how you can support and shift power back to them.

Victims of abuse are in a world of mental and emotional pain and confusion. Abusive people can be extremely romantic and persuasive at the beginning of a relationship. They will do and say anything to make the victim fall for them. Once the victim becomes attached or dependent, the abusive behavior becomes visible with words or through physical action. One tactic that abusive partners often use is to blame their partner for their abusive behavior. The victim begins to believe that it is their fault their partner has “changed” because “they used to be a great person” before the abuse. It’s so difficult to see that their partner, whom they love and care about, is actually manipulating them.

Logically, they may realize that they should leave, but there are many reasons why a victim might stay. Like any other relationship, there are feelings of love and emotional attachment. Because of an abusive partner’s manipulation, a victim may believe that the abuse is justified, that they “deserve” it. An abusive partner may make threats to harm the victim, themselves or others if the victim tries to leave. They may use physical force to maintain control, or they may cut off a victim’s resources. Gaslighting is a very common and effective tactic; abusive partners convince the victim that the bad times are not a big deal, that the victim is “crazy” or overreacting emotionally.

How Can I Help A Loved One?

First and foremost, try to keep the lines of communication open with your loved one. Abusive partners will often try to isolate the victim from family and friends so they can have total power and control without any interference. An abusive partner might tell the victim that no one loves and cares for them as they do, and if the victim has no one to reach out to, they may believe the abusive partner is right.

Try not to speak negatively about the abusive partner. This may put the victim on the defense because they have already been manipulated to believe that the abuse is their fault. Alternatively, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed that they “allowed” the abuse to happen. It can be very difficult to admit to friends and family that the person they once thought was wonderful is actually abusive. Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Try to listen without judgment and tell them you’re concerned for their safety. By treating them with kindness and respect, you remind them that they are worthy of such treatment.

Lastly, avoid telling your loved one what they should do. It can be confusing and puts an enormous amount of pressure on the victim. They are already in a situation where someone is exerting power and control over them. Instead, you can help shift power back to them by trusting that they know their situation best, and letting them know you are there to provide help and support. Create a safety plan with them, and let them decide what will make them feel safest, whether that includes leaving the relationship or not. You might also consider sending short, positive texts or emails (if they have indicated it is safe to do so) to let the victim know you are there for them, such as, “Just wanted to say hi and know that I love you and I am always here for you.’’ These small gestures can be very encouraging and go a long way.

If your loved one is experiencing abuse, The Hotline can help. Whether you need support, information or assistance with creating a safety plan, call 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central.

Comment section

21 replies
  1. i am on a abusive relation with a woman. that i thought was a true friends. we got married the abuse started before ther marriage i even try to change her.i m not perfect my self but i dont see being abuse throught the relationship

  2. Hi xxxx,

    I’m so sorry to hear that you are being abused. You do not deserve to be treated badly, for any reason. It’s understandable that you would want your partner to change, but please know that there is nothing you can or should do to make her stop being abusive. Abuse is a choice, and she has to choose on her own to stop that behavior. We would like to help in any way we can. Please give us a call at 1-800-799-7233 or chat live here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time to speak with one of our advocates.

  3. My mother told me today that her husband, my stepfather, has been seeing multiple women throughout their relationship. They got into an argument last Sunday leading to multiple bruises from her wrist all the way to her shoulder, which I saw today. She says she does not want to leave, was denied a place to stay by my older brother, and I have no way to provide a place for her to stay since I live with my brother. I’m not sure what I can do to help, but I dont want the physical and mental abuse to get worse if I could have done something to prevent it.

  4. Hi Maxx,

    This sounds like such a difficult situation – it’s never easy to hear that a loved one is being abused and mistreated. It’s very understandable that you want to help, but please know that the abuse is not your fault, and it’s not your mother’s fault. Your stepfather is choosing to behave this way, and only he can make the decision to stop cheating and being abusive. We would like to provide any support we can. Please get in touch with us directly at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on the website between 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central.

  5. Hi I have a friend who is with an abusive partner. She was with someone else who was good to her but once her ex came back she got back with him and the abuse started all over again she had to call out of work because she tried to cover up and got infected. I really want help for her because I know it’s not her fault and I feel that for her she feels that she has no way out. I don’t want her to feel that way.

  6. Hi Kiara,

    This sounds like a very scary situation, and I’m so sorry to hear your friend is being treated this way. I would encourage you to contact us directly, either by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chatting here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central. We would like to help in any way we can.

  7. I was in an abusive relationship off and on for over 10 yrs. I would get the I love you more than me after I had been called names, cheated on, cursed out…you name it. Then it would follow up with i am better off dead comments. Of course I couldn’t leave then. Things would be better for awhile and the cycle starts over. One night I decided to stand up and say I am just really done and then it happen…he told me he could kill me and began choking me…at some point from going in and out I managed to kick him in the groin and run out of the house. Long story short the military the military police wrote the report up with both of us assaulting each other. Where does that now leave me not being able to do a few jobs in the military to assist victims. I am not say don’t tell anyone about abuse but I am saying is don’t keep it a secret…seek assistance because you cant get the strength you need alone to combat this epidemic. I have done well in my military career only to now have it come to a abrupt stop from an event 13 yrs ago.
    I had never seeked assistance before because I buried it I thought I would leave it there but however old wounds were dug into and I am now talking to someone as well as receiving support from my great new husband.

    There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You should not have to fear what others think or how they feel.
    Active duty Soldier

  8. Hi Davis,

    Thank you for sharing your story with our community. I am so sorry to hear that your partner treated you that way, but very glad that you are now in a healthy and loving relationship. You deserve to be respected and supported! Please know that we’re here for you any time if you feel you need to talk.

  9. I’ve been married for 10 years but in the beginning I didn’t realize what I was experiencing was abuse because it didn’t look like any kind of abuse I had seen or heard of before. My husband would mess with me in my sleep, always be talking to other women behind my back, was majorly addicted to porn and had massive collections on every electronic device he owned, he would take inappropriate picture of women in public with out their knowledge, post naked pictures and videos of me online without my knowledge or consent. He controlled the way I looked, the way I wore my hair, my weight. I always felt ugly, not enough, and insecure. Every time I found something out he would deny it, say i’m crazy, and at once point he had me convinced I was bipolar because of it, even got me on meds. It was a vicious cycle of sexual exploitation, lying, fighting, threatening to kill him self, make up and start the cycle all over again. It took a long time and talking with a professional to help me realize that what I was experiencing was abuse. People are who they are. They will not change unless they want to. You cannot change anyone but yourself. I’m glad I finally learned that but it doesn’t make walking this road any easier.

  10. My mother has been abused verbally emotionally, and physical my father for the last 46 years. My brothers and i were subjected to that. Now my brothers and I are adults in our 40s.On Friday at 130 am it explored. He kinked my mother in the face as we were getting out of the car after my youngest brother wedding. He went after my mother, my self and my brother. With whom wanted to fight physically. I took my mother to my house, them we gather at the house of one of my brothers house. And we all spoke to my mother, that enough is enough, after talking for several hours she came to her senses. She is afraid of him but more of being alone. We came to the house and all four of us spoke to my dad. We asked him to leave. But he said he would but my mom would have to pay him palamoni. Since she makes more than him. What help can you provide ? She doesn’t make that much more, and thanks to a lot of saving. There is some monies. He is very negative please help. He said he would be out of the house in a week. My husband and I will be staying that long to protect my mom.

  11. Hi NR,

    Thank you for sharing your story with our community. You have been through so much; the behaviors you describe are certainly abusive, and we are so sorry to hear your husband treated you this way. You did not deserve it, ever. We are glad that you have been speaking with a professional about your experiences – counseling and therapy can be so helpful. If you ever feel like you need to talk to one of our advocates for additional support, we are here for you! Call 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) or chat here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.

  12. Hello Sue,

    This sounds like such a difficult situation. None of you deserve to be treated this way by your father – you all deserve to be safe. We would like to help in any way we can. Please contact us directly at 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time. We hope to hear from you soon.

  13. My son has been in an abusive relationship with a woman for about 2 years. Our family myself included started to notice signs of controlling & possessive behaviour early on in the relationship. The behaviour has escalated into verbal & physical abuse slapping ,kicking & recently leaving marks on his throat. When this happened I was so concerned that it wouldn’t escalate into her hitting him with an object or even grabbing a knife. I called the police and filed a domestic abuse report. The police spoke to my son & cautioned him about staying in the relationship. My son didn’t want to press charges so the young woman was only spoken to by the police .She was furious with me and will no longer let my son talk or have anything to do with me. We do talk but he’s in constant anxiety about it. I have told my son to talk to a therapist but he insists that everything is his fault and he loves her.

    Is there anything more I can do to help him?

  14. Hi Kathy,

    I’m so sorry to hear about what is happening to your son. It’s so difficult to watch someone we love experience abuse. I encourage you to give us a call any time at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central. We’d like to help in any way we can and hope to hear from you soon.

  15. Hi, my situation is different, my current partner, who is incredible in all aspects and also very dedicated divorced last year, his ex cheated on him, used him for money, and even tho he was still willing to work on his marriage following this, meanwhile she kept him at arms reach for sex and money… the minute he told her he could no longer submit to her every need and until now, she set up a peace bond, got pregnant from the other man, and uses that peace bond to ruin his life like one would do with a puppet. all his belongings still remain at her house. Victims services is fantastic for those who need it, but for a man stuck in this system it’s not easy, he lives out of fear of crossing her path everyday, she calls the cops in him at every opportunity she gets even if he hasn’t done anything. There has got to be support in these kinds of situations for men? His lawyer hasn’t been very helpful in cracking her case, even tho a lot of info was provided.

  16. Hi Chris,

    This sounds like a really difficult and stressful situation for both you and your partner. I’m sorry to hear that he hasn’t found the support or legal help he needs. We’d like to help in any way we can. I encourage you or your partner to contact us directly by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chatting here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

  17. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    was under the impression that mental abuse ( with some violence ) was very recognized in this day and age ??

    My sister fled her husband and is in a DV shelter for that very thing …… She has done everything that she has been advised —– Filed papers for a protection order — Judge decides that there isnt evidence of DV – Mental not taken into consideration – SO she tries to retain a lawyer via legal aid and that route also went the same way ….. where is the protection gone on the mental level ??

    No shes doesn’t have an array of police reports as she was constantly threatened that he would have her deported as they had not yet completed the immigration paperwork as he would delay it — but that is not the issue, the issue is as she doesn’t have a SS# she feels that the American Justice system is failing her ……… she is not getting any support that a Citizen would get in this situation – She has done nothing but tell the truth – yet he still hounds her , to count today there are over 200 emails from him — telling her that shes at fault, shes the abuser, he will get his son as she cannot support him …. Well I can as she is my sister so that is crap to me ……..

    She has been through hell with this man, he retains all money- utilities are never paid on time as he spends at his leisure, many handouts to maintain her utilities including rent payments , he takes car seat and stroller to work and even took her door key …. practical prisoner in her once home – She begged him to leave and be amicable…. he didnt leave until she fled and he was faced with the bills on his own ——— So as soon as she had nothing he again wins!

    He would kick her outa the bed , if she was lucky enough to be able to sleep in the marital bed he would kick her constantly and pretend he was sleeping — belittled her everyday with name calling and telling her she was worthless piece of **** amoungest many other colorful words —– … they had an argument he hit her and she fell into the bath tub — he then proceeded to flee with the baby – the only reason she spoke with him and let him back in as she wanted her son home ( again authorities were horrible , no status on file so they brush her off ) on that occasion charges were filed, again he threatened her the loss of her son so she withdrew the charges and he promised her the world again he did not follow through- it was so he could go back and abuse her more – so the abuse continued until June , she waited for him to leave for work after a colorful argument as to why he needed a 2nd job — again other names were called and she was pushed outa his way —— She fled

    So now today she sits a prisoner again via the awful treatment through the American Justice system – terrified of loosing her son, she does not want him away from their son, she just wants security that he cannot run with him and at this point she has NO faith in America atal ………

    I know all this as she is my biological sister and she lived right next door to me —— I am in full contact with her about all this ………….

    I am hoping someone can help , she should not have to live like this in the Land of the so called FREE — seems he can do anything he wants and nothing is recognized but she cannot get simple protection and peace of mind that he cannot hurt her anymore.

  18. Hi Charlotte,

    Thank you for sharing your story. This is such a heartbreaking situation, and we’d like to help in any way we can. Please contact us directly by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chatting here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

  19. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    Hello, my sister got married with a US citizenship holder male. Then she flew there after her immigration was completed. She lives with her husband, mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Her in-laws mentally abuses her, her husband does not give her any support. She has been there for months but they didn’t let her join a job. Her mother-in-law and sister -in-law abuses her severly. They scold her every minute. She in beign neglected. Their behaviour towards her is the worst. Now, they are telling my sister to leave the house and go back to our country. My sister is in an extremely difficult situation. What can she do now? Please help.

  20. Another thing i forgot to mention that, her in-laws do not let her to contact with her parents or sisters or any other relative from her side. please help.

  21. Hi Pari,

    Thanks for reaching out to us. We’re so sorry to hear that your sister is in this situation. She does not deserve to be treated this way by anyone. We would encourage her or anyone in her support system in the U.S. to reach out to us by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chatting online between 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time. We may be able to locate some additional resources or help create a plan for her to stay safe.

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