Identifying Early Signs of Physical Abuse

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

Physical abuse is not always apparent, and it can take time to become obvious. But identifying early signs of a physically abusive relationship may be key to breaking the cycle of abuse.

It’s important to remember that abuse goes beyond anger, and that arguing, and conflict are not necessarily abusive, even though they might bring up strong reactions and unpleasant behaviors.

The patterns behind abuse are often more subtle. But awareness is always helpful, and I hope it helps you or someone you know in an abusive relationship find freedom and healing.

Early Signs of Physical Abuse

These warning signs (adapted from a list by Women’s Advocates) are early signs of physical abuse.

  • Fast-Moving: Things move quickly, and you or your loved one may feel like they are moving too fast: “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.”
  • Jealousy: Things get possessive quickly in abusive relationships. People who abuse don’t want their family members or partner to go anywhere without them because they might meet someone to whom they would be closer than the abuser.
  • Controlling: Abusive behavior is driven by control. Abusive partners or family members try to control finances, activities, and connections to others.
  • Threatening: “I’ll kill you if you ever try to leave me,” or “you’ll never find a place to live if you move out,” and other threats are a big red flag when it comes to identifying signs of abuse

How Early Stages of Abuse Make You Feel

Before people are physically harmed by abuse, they often have difficult, painful feelings. I strongly suggest seeking help if you are in any relationship that makes you feel:

  • Overwhelmed: You or your loved one are overwhelmed because someone expects to have all their needs met or expects their version of “perfection.”
  • Ashamed: Guilt and shame are emotional indications of potential physical abuse because abusers blame victims of abuse for everything, even if it is clearly their responsibility.
  • Lonely: Abusive people isolate those they abuse, making them feel more and more isolated over time.
  • Fearful: It is natural to feel afraid if the person you or your loved one is part of a relationship with is abusive. It is important to listen to those fears and do what you can to protect yourself as soon as you are able.

See the Signs? Get Support

If you see the signs of abuse (or potential abuse) developing in a relationship in your life or the life of a loved one, it’s time to get support so freedom can be found, and you can begin the long journey of healing after abuse.

TheHopeLine partners with many organizations that help abuse victims find safety. Along with these amazing groups, TheHopeLine offers mentoring to support people who are in post-abuse recovery, or who are working to break free of an abusive relationship. Talk to a HopeCoach today if you’re ready to get help for yourself or need to know how to help a loved one. We are here for you, and we will get through this together.

If your boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner gets angry often, it could become abusive. Learn how anger and abuse are different, and how to make a change.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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