Have you ever been in a relationship and the person you were dating turned out to be something other than what you thought they were? They seemed romantic and passionate, for example, but that later turned into something else, something ugly? It is often the case, and many women find themselves in relationships that are unhealthy – and even violent – and they didn’t see it coming.
In my work (and volunteer work), I see a lot of domestic violence. It is more common than you think, and I have been thinking lately about how to help people see the signs – how can you tell someone is going to “go bad” later on? Well, wouldn’t you know it, Oprah did a show on it this week, so here are the top 5 signs identified by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (in the States). They are universal, and if you see any of these signs in your relationship, do not let yourself ignore them and if they are severe enough, get out as soon as you can. They are precursors, and often show that a relationship is headed for violence:
- Jealousy and possessiveness
- Controlling behavior
- Verbal abuse
- Threats to harm you, your family or your pet
- Isolation from friends and family
So, I suggest teaching this to your teenagers, especially girls, although I think that young men would also do well to avoid women who are jealous, controlling, verbally abusive, etc.
If you are in a relationship, make a special effort to periodically check your partner’s behaviour – before dating, after one week, after 2 weeks, after a month and so on. Be completely objective, and maybe ask a friend to keep an eye out for these signs, in case you can’t see them. We can be so blind! These signs can be hidden at first, sometimes, but will show up later on, as the abuser becomes more comfortable, or more insecure. And I use the term “abuser” not as a permanent label, but simply to say that the person is being abusive, and it is not right, not even once, not at all. No one deserves to be abused, be it emotional, verbal, or physical. Don’t feel shy about asking for help, either. You might be surprised at the sympathetic people you will find to help you through. If you aren’t comfortable talking to a family member or friend, or if they don’t know how to help, contact a women’s shelter, victim service unit, or abuse hotline near you.