Domestic violence, intimate partner abuse, dating violence. No matter what you call it, it’s pervasive in societies around the world, cutting a wide swath across socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and religious lines.
Unfortunately, most people never learn the signs of dating abuse and many are surprised when they finally figure it out. Because it’s not as easy as you think. While physical violence is pretty straightforward, emotional abuse is far more insidious and not as recognizable as a bruise.
However, it tends to follow a set pattern of behaviors, and when you’re familiar with what they are, they jump out at you. But if you’re not trained to spot them, they can be easily misread, justified or dismissed. In my YA novel Girl on the Brink, the story of a teen romance that turns into an abusive relationship, the main character Chloe experiences all the following red flags in her relationship with Kieran, which starts out as a passionate, intense romance but ends in disaster.
1. Rushed relationship. He presses for an exclusive commitment almost immediately. He claims to have never loved anyone like this before.
2. Jealousy. He’s jealous of any guy you even speak to and says his jealousy shows how much he loves you. He’s possessive, calling constantly, dropping in out of the blue, and gives you little room to yourself.
3. Controlling. He checks up on you, interrogates you about where you went and who you were with, monitors your email and phone. He wants you to ask him permission to do anything.
4. Unrealistic expectations. He puts you on a pedestal, expecting you to be perfect and fulfill his every need, and will tear you off the pedestal when you aren’t perfect.
5. Isolation. He tries to cut you off from family and friends.
6. Blaming. He faults others for his own mistakes and makes others responsible for his feelings: “You make me mad,” not “I’m mad.”
7. Hypersensitive. He’s thin-skinned, taking minor slights as major insults and blowing them up into more than they’re worth.
8. Verbal abuse. He criticizes you, calls you names, embarrasses you, uses your vulnerabilities against you.
9. Mood swings. He goes from normal to raging almost instantly. Think Jekyll and Hyde.
10. Minimizes. He minimizes the harm he’s done to you: “You’re making a big deal out of that?” He promises to never do it again or get help. He goes on a charm offensive with gifts after an abusive incident.
If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799–7233.