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Identify Abuse

Understanding relationship abuse

Understanding relationship abuse is unique to each relationship. People who abuse will use one or a combination of verbal/emotional, sexual, financial, digital, and/or physical abuse to maintain power and control in the relationship.

While nobody can predict what someone who is abusive may do, it's important to learn about the warning signs of abuse to try to spot it early in the relationship.

Physical abuse, or threats to commit abuse, are the most obvious forms of domestic violence and they are usually the actions that allow others to become aware of the problem. However, this type of abuse only makes up a small portion of the overall patterns of behavior that an abusive person will use to maintain power and control over their partner. These other behaviors exhibited by a person who is abusive are less easily identified, yet firmly establish a pattern of power and control in the relationship. Abuse can happen to ANYONE in a relationship, regardless of gender or gender identity.

Adults are not the only ones affected by abuse. 

There are effects on children who witness domestic violence and many teens experience abuse in their own relationships. Teen dating violence should be taken as seriously as domestic violence.

Remember, DVSSP is here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at our helpline to provide a listening ear, refer to resources in the community, to help connect you with a variety of DVSSP services, and to provide you with information on domestic violence and abuse in relationships.


Power and Control Wheel

Power and Control Wheel

Using Coercion & Threats 

Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to harm you, threatening to leave or commit suicide, driving recklessly to frighten you, threatening others who are important to you, stalking

Using Intimidation

Making you afraid by using looks, gestures, actions, smashing things, abusing pets, displaying weapons, using looks, actions, gestures to reinforce control, standing in front of the door or exit

Using Emotional Abuse 

Putting you down, making you feel bad about yourself, calling you names, playing mind games, making you feel guilty, humiliating you, questioning your identity, reinforcing internalized phobias and isms

Using Isolation

Controlling what you do, who you see or talk to, limiting your outside activities, making you account for your whereabouts, saying no one will believe you, not letting you go anywhere alone

Denying, Minimizing, Blaming

Making light of abuse; saying it didn't happen; shifting responsibility; saying it's your fault, you deserved it; accusing you of "mutual abuse"; saying it's just fighting, not abuse; accusing you of making them abuse you

Using Children

Making you feel guilty about the children, using children to relay messages, threatening to take the children, telling you that you have no parental rights, threatening to tell your ex or the authorities to take your children

Using Privilege

Treating you like a servant, making all the "big" decisions, being the one to define the roles or duties In the relationship, using privilege or ability to discredit you, cutting off access to resources or using the system against you, knowing "what's best" for you

Using Economic Abuse 

Preventing you from getting or keeping a job, making you ask for money, interfering with work or education, taking your credit cards without permission, not working and requiring you to provide support, keeping your name off joint assets

Adapted from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project Duluth, Minnesota

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