It’s not always easy to tell at the beginning of a relationship if it will become abusive.  In fact, many abusive partners may seem absolutely perfect in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.

Domestic violence doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different. But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have more power and control over their partners.

If you’re beginning to feel as if your partner or a loved one’s partner is becoming abusive, there are a few behaviors that you can look out for. Watch out for these red flags:
​​​​​​​Telling you that you can never do anything right

Showing jealousy of your friends and time spent away

Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing friends or family members

Embarrassing or shaming you with put-downs

Controlling every penny spent in the household

Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses
Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you

Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do

Preventing you from making your own decisions

Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children

Preventing you from working or attending school

Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your petsIntimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons

Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable withPressuring you to use drugs or alcohol

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating.  

Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. These are behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. Abuse includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time.



You may be experiencing physical abuse if your partner has done or repeatedly does any of the following tactics of abuse:

Pulling your hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting or choking you

Forbidding you from eating or sleeping

Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)

Using weapons to threaten to hurt you, or actually hurting you with weaponsTrapping you in your home or keeps you from leaving

Preventing you from calling the police or seeking medical attention

Harming your children 

Abandoning you in unfamiliar places 

Driving recklessly or dangerously when you are in the car with them 

Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol (especially if you’ve had a substance abuse problem in the past)

You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if you partner exerts control through: 

Calling you names, insulting you or continually criticizing youRefusing to trust you and acting jealous or possessive

Trying to isolate you from family or friends

Monitoring where you go, who you call and who you spend time with

Demanding to know where you are every minute

Punishing you by withholding affection

Threatening to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets

Humiliating you in any way

Blaming you for the abuse

Accusing you of cheating and being often jealous of your outside relationships

Serially cheating on you and then blaming you for his or her behavior

Cheating on you intentionally to hurt you and then threatening to cheat again

Cheating to prove that they are more desired, worthy, etc. than you are

Attempting to control your appearance: what you wear, how much/little makeup you wear, etc.

Telling you that you will never find anyone better, or that you are lucky to be with a person like them


Sexually abusive methods of retaining power and control include an abusive partner:

Forcing you to dress in a sexual wayInsulting you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names

Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts

Holding you down during sex

Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you

Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex

Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will

Ignoring your feelings regarding sex

Forcing you to watch pornography

Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to youSexual coercion

Sexual coercion lies on the ‘continuum’ of sexually aggressive behavior. It can vary from being egged on and persuaded, to being forced to have contact. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt, or shame. You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For example, an abusive partner:

Making you feel like you owe them — ex. Because you’re in a relationship, because you’ve had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift

Giving you drugs and alcohol to “loosen up” your inhibitions

Playing on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me,” “If I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”

Reacting negatively with sadness, anger or resentment if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something

Continuing to pressure you after you say no

Making you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no

Trying to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a man”Even if your partner isn’t forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, being made to feel obligated  is coercion in itself. 

Dating someone, being in a relationship, or being married never means that you owe your partner intimacy of any kind.


Economic or financial abuse is when an abusive partner extends their power and control into the area of finances.

This abuse can take different forms, including an abusive partner:

Giving an allowance and closely watching how you spend it or demanding receipts for purchases

Placing your paycheck in their bank account & denying you access to it

Preventing you from viewing or having access to bank accountsForbidding you to work or limiting the hours that you can work

Maxing out credit cards in your name without permission or not paying the bills on credit cards, which could ruin your credit score.  Stealing money from you or your family 

Using funds from children’s savings accounts without your permission

Living in your home but refusing to work or contribute to the household

Making you give them your tax returns or confiscating joint tax returns

Refusing to give you money to pay for necessities/shared expenses like food, clothing, transportation, or medical care and medicine

DIGITAL ABUSE​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Digital abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this behavior is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online.

You may be experiencing digital abuse if your partner:

​​​​​​​Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.

Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online.

Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on you.

Puts you down in their status updates.

Pressures you to send explicit video.

Steals or insists to be given your passwords.

Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.

Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.

​​​​​​​Tags you unkindly in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.


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