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Abusive Relationships

Extreme jealousy, anger, threats and physically hurting someone you care about is not love… it is abuse

Healthy and Abusive Relationships
The Warning Signs: Are you in an abusive relationship
Common characteristics of abusers and their partners
Types of Abuse
Have A Safety Plan
Getting a Protection Order

One in ten teens will experience violence in a relationship; one in four women is likely to be abused by a partner in her lifetime.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the US, more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

Healthy and Abusive Relationships
Sometimes abusive relationships are easy to identify; other times the abuse may take subtle forms. The examples shown here can help you identify traits of abusive and healthy relationships. In general, abusive relationships have a serious power imbalance, with the abuser controlling or attempting to control most aspects of life. Healthy relationships share responsibility and decision-making tasks and reflect respect for all the people in the relationship, including children.

Healthy Relationships:

Non-Threatening Behavior (talking and acting so that your partner feels safe and comfortable doing and saying things)

Respect (listening to your partner non-judgmentally, being emotionally affirming and understanding, valuing opinions)

Trust and Support (supporting your partner's goals in life, respecting your partner's right to his or her own feelings, friends, activities and opinions)
Honesty and Accountability (accepting responsibility for self, acknowledging past use of violence and / or emotionally abusive behavior, changing the behavior, acknowledging infidelity, changing the behavior, admitting being wrong when it is appropriate, communicating openly and truthfully, acknowledging past abuse, seeking help for abusive relationship patterns)

Responsible Parenting (sharing parental responsibilities, being a positive, non-violent role model for children)

Shared Responsibility (mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work, making family decisions together)

Abusive Relationships:

Using Intimidation (making your partner afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing or destroying things, destroying or confiscating your partner's property, abusing pets as a display of power and control, silent or overt raging, displaying weapons or threatening their use, making physical threats)

Using Emotional Abuse / Verbal abuse (putting your partner down, making your partner feel bad about himself or herself, calling your partner names, playing mind games, interrogating your partner, harassing or intimidating your partner, checking up on" your partner's activities or whereabouts, humiliating your partner, weather through direct attacks or "jokes", making your partner feel guilty, shaming your partner)

Using Isolation (controlling what your partner does, who he or she sees and talks to, what he or she reads, where he or she goes, limiting your partner's outside involvement, demanding your partner remain home when you are not with them, cutting your partner off from prior friends, activities, and social interaction, using jealousy to justify your actions)

(Jealousy is the primary symptom of abusive relationships; it is also a core component of Love Addiction.)
Minimizing, Denying and Blame Shifting (making light of the abuse and not taking your partner's concerns about it seriously, saying the abuse did not happen, or wasn't that bad, shifting responsibility for your abusive behavior to your partner. (i.e: I did it because you ______.) , saying your partner caused it)

Using Children (making your partner feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages, using visitation to harass your partner, threatening to take the children away)

Using Male Privilege (treating your partner like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the "master of the castle." being the one to define men's and women's or the relationship's roles)

Using Economic Abuse (preventing your partner from getting or keeping a job, making your partner ask for money, giving your partner an allowance, taking your partner's money, not letting your partner know about or have access to family income)

Sexual abuse rape, unwanted sexual touching, sexual comments pressuring your
Partner for sex, refusing to talk about or use any contraception

Common characteristics of an abusers and their partners
Certain personality traits predispose people to abusive relationships. The following lists are typical characteristics of both parties in abusive relationships.

Partners of Abusers: Personality traits, which are common in the partners of abusers:

  1. Intense need for love and affection. (See Love Addiction)
  2. Low self esteem. (Belief that they can't have / don't deserve better treatment.)
  3. Drug or Alcohol Dependence.
  4. A background involving physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
  5. ACOA issues (Adult Children of alcoholics / addicts.)
  6. Codependent personality disorder and / or Love addiction.
  7. Enforced isolation creating resentment.
  8. Strong need for a relationship to validate them.
  9. Gain a sense of worth by care taking the abuser.
  10. Inability to set and enforce interpersonal boundaries.
  11. Difficulty expressing anger, tendency to internalize it, act it out in other ways.
  12. Loyalty to the abuser takes precedence over emotional or physical safety.
  13. Belief that "it will change if I just try harder."
  14. Repeated attempts to leave the relationship.
  15. Inability to follow through with leaving - return to the abuser again and again.
  16. Clinical depression, self - medication.
  17. Suicidal ideation or attempts.

The Abusive Personality: Traits which are common in the abusive personality are:

  1. Uncontrolled temper.
  2. Extreme Jealousy. (See Love Addiction.)
  3. Intense fear of abandonment.
  4. A background involving physical, emotional or sexual abuse, abandonment, ACOA issues.
  5. Unrealistic expectations of a relationship. (To "fix" them or solve their problems.)
  6. Isolation and antisocial temperament.
  7. Recklessness. (dangerous sexual behavior, reckless driving, drug use etc.)
  8. Inability to accept responsibility for their behavior and actions, even in the face of dire consequences.
  9. Cruelty to children / animals.
  10. Threats of violence.
  11. Low self-esteem, shame.
  12. Codependent personality disorder and / or Love addiction.
  13. Inability to respect interpersonal boundaries, a compulsion to violate
  14. Drug or Alcohol Dependence, self medication.
  15. Emotional volatility - fear of being "out of control".
  16. Need for power and control to compensate for the above.
  17. Bipolar disorder and / or Borderline Personality Disorder.
  18. Abuse generally escalates when the partner leaves.
It should be noted that abusers are often survivors of abuse themselves.
Many of the characteristics above are documented trauma based adaptations to childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
Abusiveness is a family dysfunction that repeats through generations. Just as addictions pass down through generations, abusers often leave their families for a family of choice - then repeat the abusive cycle from the other side. The abused becomes the abuser and so continues the cycle. In this sense abusers and addicts are not to blame for their behavior, but they are responsible for it. Accountability is a concept addicts, codependents and abusers have trouble grasping until they are well into recovery.

It can change - BREAK THE CYCLE NOW!
* Abusive relationships are marked by attempts by the abuser to isolate their partner from social interaction. This is due to jealousy and to an unconscious awareness that outsiders will see the relationship dynamics and attempt to intervene. (Any signs of independence in their partner triggers deep seated abandonment fears and jealousy.) The enforced isolation of abusive relationships also creates an ideal climate for the progression of addictions in one or both partners. (Isolation is a common characteristic of addict / alcoholics.)

The Warning Signs: Are you in an abusive relationship:

-Are you with a partner who is jealous and possessive
-Does he get upset when you want to spend time with your other female friends
-Does he check up with you
-Does he have difficulty not accepting breaking up
-Does he pressure you to take drugs or alcohol
-Does he try to control you by being bossy or manipulative
-Does he criticize the way you dress, talk or dance
-Does he criticize your friends, family and things that are important to you
-Does he make all decisions in the relationship and ignore your opinion
-Does he have a history of fighting or a bad temper
-Does he brag about mis-treating other people or animals
-Does he blame you when he mistreats you, or when he loses his temper
-Does he tell you that you are worthless, stupid, ugly or crazy
-Does he have a history of bad relationships and does he blame his former partners for the problems in those relationships
-Do your friends and family think your partner is dangerous
-Does your partner attempt to keep you away from your friends and/or family.
-Do you find yourself having to account to him about you whereabouts when you are not with him.
-Does the relationship seem to be happening too fast
-Has he verbally or physically lashed out at you

If you answered "yes" to some of the questions about your partner you could be in an abusive relationship. You are not alone and do not deserve to be abused physically, sexually or emotionally.
If you believe that you are in an abusive relationship talk to your school counselor, a teacher, a crisis worker, a friend or a doctor. After a violent or abusive episode the abusive person may feel indifferent about the episode (attempting to minimize what has occurred) or he may feel sorry and promise that such an incident will never happen again. He may act nicer and genuinely seem to be a better man. Please be careful and do not believe him. In most cases, this type of violence involves a cycle, which often repeats itself as the frequency and intensity of the episodes increase.

The general cycle is broken down into three strategies:
TENSION BUILDING STAGE: He becomes increasingly tense and lashes out. He puts his partner down. She is aware of the tension and generally accepts his blame for it. She tries harder and harder not to upset him and to make him feel better. The woman is rarely visibly angry, but she is often depressed and anxious.
ACUTE BATTERING STAGE: He finally explodes which could be set off by anything. The women might try to escape. If she can not she might remove herself emotionally from the situation. The batterer usually discounts or minimizes what happened. The survivor is usually in a state of shock.
HONEYMOON STAGE: Hours or days after the incident the battering incident, the man may be remorseful and loving and tries to win the survivor back. This helps to build her self-esteem. The couple becomes very connected and usually denies that a problem exists. They cannot maintain this false honeymoon and eventually the tension builds again.
The victim's self esteem becomes very low. She often ends up isolated from her friends and family. The abuser blames her for his behavior by making such comments as "Why did you make me mad, you know I have a temper." The victim may feel that she must try harder to be a better partner. She may feel intimidated by her partner, or she may hope that he will change. This type of abuse can occur over time. Often, the abuser will manipulate this situation so that the victim is alienated from her friends and family.

When meeting someone new, try to find out about other relationships he has been in and why they ended
Try to find out if he has female friends
Try to find out if he has a temper
Make certain that you are involved in planing activities on dates
Make certain that he respects you and your limits
Make certain that he is interested in you as a person
Make certain that he is interested in things that are important to you
Act on your instincts, if a situation seem odd - try to get out of it at the earliest opportunity

A Safety Plan

1. Pack a suitcase, and leave it with a friend or neighbor.

2. Hide an extra set of car keys. During a violent episode - stay away from area were one could find tools such as garages or kitchens. Try not to trap yourself in a corner, stay near the exit so that you can get away. Try to use table and furniture as barriers.

3. Put aside emergency money and any important papers you'll need. Including Birth certificates, deed or lease of your residence, cash and credit cards, health insurance cards, passports, work visas, small toys for the children, jewelry, small item that can be sold.

4. Plan where to go and how to get there, at any time of the day or night. Try to make a code signal with your neighbors (via telephone / front porch light) so they will know when to call police without typing off the abuser.

  • KEEP EMERGENCY NUMBERS HANDY - Make sure you have numbers for:

    1. The Police
    2. An Ambulance
    3. A battered women's hotline

  • INSTALL SECURE LOCKS ON DOORS AND WINDOWS - Keep your house locked at all times, and consider installing a peephole in your front door. Never let the abuser in --for any reason.



Getting a Protection Order


It's a document issued by a court, to help you protect yourself from someone who is abusing or harassing you. Any adult may petition a judge for an "order of protection" if he/she has been

  • SET LIMITS - For example, it can require the abuser to keep away from you and your home.

SEND A STRONG MESSAGE - Getting a protection order lets the abuser know you won't put up with abusive behavior.


Because they can be useful tools for ending - or preventing -abuse.

A. Abuse Can Take A Terrible Toll On Your:
  • SELF-ESTEEM - Abuse can make it hard for you to feel good about yourself. you may even come to believe that you deserve the mistreatment --that's never true!

  • HEALTH- Physical abuse can lead to serious injury --or death. But any kind of abuse creates emotional stress, which can damage health in many ways.

  • LIFE - Living with abuse -- or the threat of abuse -- can be a nightmare for you and your whole family.

  • CHILDREN'S FUTURE - Living in an abusive household makes a child more likely to continue the pattern of abuse --either as victim or abuser.

The first step to getting a protection order is deciding whether you need one.

A. PHYSICAL ABUSE and the fear it creates can effect every aspect of a woman's life. Physical abuse includes:
  • hitting

  • using a weapon

  • shoving

  • twisting an arm

  • choking

  • holding a woman against her will
B. EMOTIONAL ABUSE may be more difficult to recognize than physical abuse, but emotional abuse is just as serious. Emotional abuse includes:
  • Making threats.

  • Humiliating a woman by putting her down, calling her names, telling her she's selfish, not good enough, etc.

  • Taking or destroying a woman's personal property.

  • Forbidding her to leave the house or see friend.
C. SEXUAL ABUSE can involve a female of any age -- single or married. It can include:
  • Rape (sex forced on a person, whether or not the 2 people are partners)

  • Pressuring a person to have sex.

  • Making comments or behaving in ways that make a woman feel like a sexual object.
D. STALKING is a pattern of harassing a woman. In Tennessee, stalking is a crime. It can involve:
  • Following a woman in public.

  • Making threats over the phone.

  • Calling repeatedly or at inappropriate times (the middle of the night, for example)

  • "Staking out" a woman's home or workplace. In many cases, a woman who is being stalked is in great danger. Stalking often leads to a violent crime.


A woman who believes the abuse will stop by itself or become less frequent is putting herself at risk. The abuser may apologize and promise it won't happen again, but in most cases the abuse continues and even gets worse.

Every state is different, but in many places a protection order can require an abuser to:

  • STAY AWAY FROM YOU--at home, at work and anywhere you go. A protection order can also prohibit the abuser from contacting you by telephone or mail.

  • MOVE OUT, if the two of you live together, whether as partners or just house mates, you can ask that a police officer be on the scene when the abuser collects his belongings.

  • GET INTO A COUNSELING PROGRAM that focuses on battering, substance abuse or both, if appropriate.


  • GIVE YOU TEMPORARY CUSTODY - This generally lasts until the court makes a final decision about custody.

  • REQUIRE SUPERVISED VISITS - The abuser can be barred from spending time with his children unless a worker from a social service agency is present.
    ORDER CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS - The abuser may be required to send you money each month to help meet your children's needs for food, clothes, medical care, etc.

An abuser can be arrested for violating the order, but it's not always possible to prevent a violation.

BUILD YOUR CASE - It may help you in court, if you decide to apply for a protection order.

  • NOTIFY THE POLICE - If possible, call the police during an incident of abuse or immediately afterward. The sooner you notify them, the stronger your case will be if you go to court. Get the responding officers' names.

  • GATHER EVIDENCE - This will also help to make your case stronger. Try to:
    1. Have a friend to take photographs of your injuries right after an incident of physical abuse -- or ask the police to do it. Be sure to note the time and date the photos were taken.

    2. Save torn or bloody clothing and anything else that could serve as evidence of abuse.


  • FIRST, GET ADVICE - Talk to the police or call a local women's shelter. Find out:
    1. What a protection order can and can't do for you.

    2. what procedure to follow for getting a protection order in your area.

    3. Which court provides the proper forms. (You may be able to choose between civil, criminal and family court.)

  • FILE THE FORMS - You may obtain the form from the Court or you may obtain the form from a law enforcement agency. You will be asked to write about the abusive treatment you suffered. Provide as many details as you can. Include the dates of any instances of abuse. If the abuse affected your children, write that down too. Ask the court clerk to help you file the forms.

  • GO TO YOUR HEARING - An emergency protection order may be issued immediately and stay in effect until your hearing. The hearing will take place within a few weeks of the day you file. At the hearing, the Judge will determine whether or not to issue a FULL ORDER OF PROTECTION which is usually for a certain period of time (i.e., 180 days) other orders can be filed near the end of the period

Be sure to:
1. Arrive on time. (If you miss the hearing, your case will be dismissed)
2. Dress neatly.
3. Speak clearly and speak only to the judge.
4. Try to stay calm. Remember, the abuser will probably come to the hearing and may say things that upset you.


To see that the protection order works. Enforcing a protection order is a team effort.
Remember To:
  • REPORT ANY VIOLATION OF THE ORDER - to the police immediately. If you don't take the order seriously, the police or court may not either.

  • CARRY YOUR PROTECTION ORDER WITH YOU at all times. The police will be more likely to make an arrest if they see that a protection order is in effect and has been violated.
    AVOID MAKING DELIBERATE CONTACT with the abuser. A protection order tells the abuser to stay away from you, but you're expected to live by the "no contact" terms, too.

Remember -- a protection order is only a piece of paper. Take other steps to protect yourself.

- Each state has its own rules. Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for a protection order even if:

1. You're not married to the abuser

2. You don't live with the abuser

3. Your partner is a woman

4. The abuser is your own child.

Getting legal counsel is a good idea, but it doesn't necessarily mean hiring a lawyer. Women's shelters often have legal advocates who can answer questions and even go to court with you. If you decide to find a lawyer, look for one with experience in family law.

There is no cost to file the initial application. However if the Judge determines at the hearing that the application was filed without just cause, he may order the applicant to pay the cost of the service of the papers.
2. Save torn or bloody clothing and anything else that could serve as evidence of abuse.