Red Flags: Relationship Abuse

It’s not always obvious that you or someone you’re close to is in an abusive relationship. 

I think I might be in an abusive relationship, or someone close to me is being abused by their partner(s). What are the red flags of relationship abuse?
An abusive relationship may include emotional, mental, or sexual abuse, or physical violence or threats of violence.

Red flags of relationship abuse include:

  • Keeping track of everything you do
    • Monitoring what you’re doing all the time or asking where you are and who you’re with every second of the day
    • Demanding your passwords to social media sites and email accounts
    • Demanding that you reply right away to texts, emails, or calls
    • Preventing or discouraging you from seeing friends or family
    • Preventing or discouraging you from going to work or school
  • Being jealous, controlling, or angry
    • Acting very jealous, including constantly accusing you of cheating
    • Having a quick temper, so you never know what you will do or say that may cause a problem
    • Controlling how you spend your money
    • Controlling your use of medicines or birth control
    • Making everyday decisions for you that you normally decide for yourself (like what to wear or eat)
  • Demeaning you
    • Putting you down, such as insulting your appearance, intelligence, or activities
    • Humiliating you in front of others
    • Destroying your property or things that you care about
    • Blaming you for their violent outbursts
  • Physically hurting or threatening to hurt you or loved ones
    • Threatening to hurt you, your children, or other people or pets in your household
    • Hurting you physically (such as hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, punching, slapping, kicking, or biting)
    • Using (or threatening to use) a weapon against you
    • Threatening to harm themselves when upset with you
    • Threatening to turn you in to authorities for illegal activity if you report physical abuse
  • Forcing you to have sex or other intimate activity
    • Forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to through physical force or threats
    • Assuming that consent for a sex act in the past means that you must participate in the same acts in the future
    • Assuming that consent for one activity means consent for future activity or increased levels of intimacy (for example, assuming that kissing should lead to sex every time)

I see a number of red flags in my relationship.  What can I do?
If you think someone is abusing you, contact RISE or access resources by visiting Confidential Support (link) or Make Connections (link). Abuse can have serious physical and emotional effects (link).  Try to be kind to yourself and allow yourself time and patience as you move forward; everyone responds differently to crime. Practice self-care (link) and coping skills strategies (link).

I see a number of red flags in the relationship of someone close to me.  What can I do?
If you are worried about a friend, family member, or colleague, contact RISE for guidance or visit Helping Others: Relationship Abuse (link). While you may be able to help someone else, you also need to remember that helping often takes a toll on your mental and physical health; visit Self-Care for Family & Friends (link) to learn more about taking care of your wellbeing.

I don’t think I’m in an abusive relationship, but it might not be healthy. What are the signs?
Sometimes a romantic relationship may not be abusive but may have serious problems that make it unhealthy. If you think you might be in an unhealthy relationship, try talking with your partner about your concerns. If that seems difficult, you might also talk to a trusted friend, family member, colleague, counselor, or advocate.

You might be in an unhealthy relationship if you:

  • Focus all your energy on your partner
  • Drop friends, family, or activities you enjoy
  • Feel pressured or controlled by this person
  • Have more bad times than good in the relationship
  • Often feel sad or scared when with this person
  • Know that this person does not support you and what you want to do in life
  • Do not feel comfortable being yourself or making your own decisions
  • Cannot speak honestly to work out conflicts in the relationship
  • Cannot talk about your needs or changes in your life that are important

We encourage you to visit with one of our confidential resources (link) on campus to find out more about healthy relationships.

*Adapted from (link)