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How to Recognize Signs of Abuse

Categories: YWCA Blog

How to Recognize Signs of Abuse

Recognizing an abusive relationship can be difficult; especially when you are involved with an abusive partner. Abuse can look very different from one relationship to the next, but it’s likely to leave you feeling the same way.

When you are in an abusive relationship, you may feel scared or anxious around your partner. You may carefully control your own behaviors to try to keep them happy. You may feel numb or depressed and have low self-worth. Your abuser may even convince you that you deserve to be treated poorly.

No matter what stage of a relationship you are in or how you feel about yourself, you can spot signs that your partner is an abuser. If your partner shows these behaviors, find help to safely leave the relationship.

Personality Traits

You may be tempted to write off abuse as just the way your partner is, but abuse is never normal. You may describe your partner as:

  • Jealous
  • Suspicious that you flirt with others
  • Having a dual personality like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Hypersensitive

These traits or behaviors may be early signs that your partner is an abuser. You cannot fix these personality traits or prevent abusive behaviors by changing how you act.

Controlling Behaviors

Abuse is all about dominating and maintaining control of another person. An abuser will use controlling behaviors regularly to keep you in line. They may take steps to control:

  • What you wear
  • Who you talk to
  • Where you go
  • What you say
  • How you act
  • How fast your relationship moves

Abusers may provide reasons for controlling behavior such as protecting you or doing it for “your own good.” Remember that an abuser does not have your best interests at heart; they only want to maintain control.


When you don’t follow the suggestions or demands of an abuser, you partner may punish you in various ways. Not all abuse is physical abuse. Emotional abuse and punishments may be harder to spot, but include:

  • Withholding sex
  • Threats of violence against you, your pets or your children
  • Verbal abuse such as insults
  • Embarrassing or humiliating you in public or private

The abuser may also blame you for these punishments, saying that you case the abuser to act that way. It’s important to remember that you do not deserve to be treated this way. In your relationship, you should be valued and respected.


In many cases, abuse escalates to more violent behavior, though it may not be directed at you personally. Abusers may use violence as another form of control or punishment. Violent behavior can include:

  • “Playful” use of force during sex
  • Using force during an argument
  • Breaking or hitting objects
  • Cruelty to animals or children
  • History of hitting other people

After violent behavior, an abuser may promise you that it will never happen again. However, without help from outside resources, it is likely that they will continue to use violence. If you or someone you know has been a victim of violent behavior, it’s important to seek help and find a way to safety.

At the YWCA of South Hampton Roads, we provide support for victims of abuse. You can call our Crisis Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 757.251.0144 to find the help you need.