How To Recognize the Signs & Types of Abuse

If you live in an abusive home or relationship, or have been abused by someone you love or trust, it can be difficult to recognize the signs and to break the cycle of abuse. But you can find hope and healing starting right here, right now.

Signs of Abuse

Abuse happens when one person mistreats another, often regularly and repeatedly, through the use of cruelty (which can take the form of manipulation, cruel words, sexual assault, or physical violence).

You may be in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend, girlfriend, family member, or someone from your community if:

  • You are told rude, unkind, hateful, untrue, or insulting things about yourself.
  • They explode in anger often and/or without cause.
  • You are forced or pressured to have sex, perform sexual acts, or touch them sexually without your consent.
  • You are forced or pressured to use drugs and alcohol.
  • You have been abandoned in unfamiliar places.
  • You have been deprived of food, water, clean clothes, a place to stay, or other necessities.
  • You are prevented from going to work or school, or from doing things that you enjoy.
  • You feel like everything you do or say (including who you can or cannot be friends with) is under their control.
  • You are blamed for the cruelty you experience.

All of these things indicate the presence of abuse in a person’s life.

Types of Abuse

The abuse you experience might be:

  • Physical: your abuser harms your bodily.
  • Emotional: your emotions are manipulated so that you live in a state of shame, self-loathing, or fear
  • Psychological: the abuse you experience has caused the onset of a mental health diagnosis like depression, anxiety, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Repeated abuse may lead you to thoughts or plans for self-harm or suicide, or you may engage in addictive behavior before, during, or after incidents of abuse.
  • Sexual: If the violence and manipulation you experience is characterized by pressure to perform sexual acts or touching without your consent, or if you have been the victim of human trafficking or rape, the relationship is sexually abusive.
  • Verbal: Insults, hateful words, lies— anything someone says to tear you down or attempt to diminish your worth is considered verbal abuse.
  • Neglect or Abandonment: Your abuser deprives you of basic needs or leaves you alone in unsafe places or situations.

Types of abuse may overlap, but if you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, it’s time to get help.

Breaking the Cycle

Psychologists and therapists use a tool called the cycle of abuse to explain why it can be so difficult to get out of an abusive relationship.

If you have experienced abuse over time, you’ve seen this pattern play out. Things are tense before the incident of abuse. Then you’re hurt. Afterward, your abuser apologizes and makes excuses for their behavior, often begging you to forgive them or take them back (if you’ve broken off a romantic relationship as a result). This keeps them from being truly accountable for their behavior and receive any consequences for their actions. This is what allows the abuse to continue.

But now you know the truth – and that truth can help you free yourself once and for all.

No matter what your abuser says, the abuse you experience is not normal and is not okay. No matter how small they try to make it seem, abuse is a serious problem that must be addressed immediately. Abuse is never, ever your fault or your responsibility. Your abuser is the only one to blame for their their cruel behavior. They must be held accountable and allowed to experience the consequences of their actions.

If you are afraid to stand up to your abuser, reach out today. We are here to help you make a plan and take the steps to do so safely. TheHopeLine has helped many people break free from toxic and abusive relationships. We are here for you as soon as you reach out.

Through blogs, eBooks, stories, podcasts and more, find answers to these kinds of questions and much more:

  • What are signs of abuse?
  • I've been assaulted, what do I do next? How can I heal after abuse?
  • How can I get out of an abusive relationship?

FAQ on Abuse:

Can an Abuser Ever Really Change?

Perhaps an abuser can change and heal if they take ownership of their issue and are willing to work really hard to break the cycle. However, the only healing you can take charge of is your own. Making your safety and well-being a priority is key. The abuser will have to engage in their own "recovery Journey" to correct the harmful thought and behavior patterns that lead to abuse and control. Read more to discover what a life in recovery looks like for an abusive person.

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