Advocate Speaks

Dear AdvocateSpeaks,

My family constantly tells me I am a victim of domestic violence and that I should break it off with the person I am seeing. My friends tell me I am in “just a bad” relationship.  What is the difference between an abusive relationship and “just a bad” dating relationship?
— Needs to Know
Dear Needs to Know,

The only two things a domestic violence relationship and “just a bad” relationship have in common are: the relationship has to end and your heart will be broken.    

The most telling sign is fear of your partner.  In “just a bad” relationship, you spend most of your time upset or just angry about something he or she has done. Or vice versa. If your inner thoughts tell you “this person could really hurt me”…pay attention.  Once an abusive person has physically or emotionally hurt you, they will do it again and again.  By then you are more emotionally involved with this person and it will be harder to break away. That is the broken heart I am talking about.  The longer you stay in the relationship, the more you will have invested emotionally!

Answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you are in an abusive relationship.

Signs That You Are In An Abusive Relationship

Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings – Do you:
  • feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
  • avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner? 
  • feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner? 
  • believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated? 
  • wonder if you’re the one who is crazy? 
  • feel emotionally numb or helpless? 
Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior – Does your partner:
  • humiliate or yell at you?
  • criticize you and put you down? 
  • treat you so badly that you are embarrassed for your friends or family to see? 
  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments? 
  • blame yourself for his abusive behavior? 
  • see yourself as property or as a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats – Does your partner:
  • have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • hurt you or threaten to hurt or kill you?  
  • threaten to take your children away or harm them? 
  • threaten to or abuse your pets? 
  • threaten to commit suicide if you leave? 
  • force you to have sex? 
  • destroy your belongings?
Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior – Does your partner:
  • act excessively jealous and possessive?
  • control where you go or what you do? 
  • keep you from seeing your friends or family? 
  • limit your access to money, the phone or the car? 
  • constantly check up on you?

Needs to know, if you are in an abusive relationship you cannot change that person. That ship has sailed and you are not the captain!  You must do what is safe for you. Look to law enforcement for protection, domestic violence agencies for information and support, and put in place a support network of friends and family. Peak danger time for a victim of domestic violence is when a victim realizes that the abuse must stop and they must end the relationship. The abuser senses this (abusers pay attention to their instincts) and will try to stop the victim often times with serious harm or even a fatal outcome.

After you have taken the necessary steps to end the relationship as a result of abuse or bad behavior, remember you will need time to grieve the loss of the relationship. Often times, friends and family will expect you to move on quickly especially if the relationship has ended as a result of domestic violence. People do not understand you did have feelings for this person. Last I checked, hearts do not come with an on/off switch. 

Remember to reach out. The more we talk about abuse, the more we educate to end domestic violence.

For more information, please call 609-265-9000 or visit


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