There is a saying that goes, do not allow yourself to be led away from the truth by what you would like to believe. Domestic violence can be particularly difficult to come to terms with because of the complexity of emotions, values and beliefs involved. For example, many women want to honor their vows, remain in the marriage or relationship and they want the violence to stop.
Coming to the realization that that might not be possible happens over a period of time, rather than in a single moment. The process is often slowed by periods of peace and contentment in the relationship when everything he has promised seems like it might be true this time.
So what kinds of things are helpful to look at when you are ready to begin considering the truth? Some warning signs of domestic violence include:
Isolation – In the beginning it may not be obvious that you are spending less time with family and friends because it feels like you have some choice in the matter. You may hear things like, don’t go out with them tonight, I haven’t seen you all week, I miss you. His behavior may also appear initially as chivalry; you don’t need a car or to learn your way around, I don’t mind taking you where you want to go.
Criticism – You may begin to feel that you can’t do anything right. Suddenly there is something lacking in your shape, size, parenting, housekeeping, education, abilities, etc.
Blaming – Abusers often fail to take responsibility for their feelings or circumstances. They insist their intimate partners make them angry and cause them to be hurtful and mean, or they complain that the partner is responsible for everything from a bad day to the promotion he did not get.
Jealousy – Women in abusive relationships are sometimes accused of being unfaithful. The batterer scrutinizes every aspect of her behavior and sees infidelity where it does not exist. For example, if a woman casually greets a male neighbor or changes her hairstyle, “she must be having an affair.” Gradually, many women will self-isolate, limiting where they go and whom they talk to in order to avoid a potential confrontation.
Past Abuse – There is no reason to assume that a man who has battered will not continue doing so.
Intimidation – This may take the form of breaking or slamming things and other shows of physical strength or prowess designed to incite fear.
Tension – Women at risk of or experiencing domestic violence often describe a tense atmosphere in which they “walk on eggshells,” constantly worried about doing or saying anything that will “set him off.”
The most important warning sign of domestic violence is your instinct. It is okay to trust your gut when it tells you something is not right.