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How can you tell if someone might become abusive in a relationship? What are some of the effects of abuse?

The answer to this question isn’t clear-cut. It’s really hard to tell up front whether someone might become abusive. Abusers can often be very charming in the beginning. That’s why many people get trapped in abusive relationships. They don’t see it coming, and by the time they recognize the abuse, they feel like they’ve caused it or can’t get out of it. Abusers usually blame their partners for the abuse. They might say things like, “I can’t believe you made me hit you.” That’s how abusers keep their partners afraid and dependent.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think you might be in an abusive relationship:

Does your partner…

  • Constantly criticize you, your intelligence and/or your self-worth?
  • Act jealous, especially when other people try to talk to you or spend time with you?
  • Make threats against you or someone you care about?
  • Try to keep you from having any friends, especially friends they might see as potential romantic competition?
  • Have problems controlling their temper—even if it’s not directed at you?
  • Insist that you do something sexual that you don’t want to do, even when you have told them you don’t want to?

Often, abusive people justify their behavior as love or flattery, at least in the beginning. Think about it. Your partner gets a little jealous when someone else flirts with you. That can feel flattering for some people. Abusive people can also be very subtle when they isolate their partner from friends and family. You might not even notice it’s happening. They just say things like, “Let’s go do something, just the two of us” or “I just want to spend time with you.” Again, some of this can be normal, but it can also be a sign of abuse when it happens a lot. You may start to notice that your friends have slipped out of the picture. And then when the trouble begins or gets worse, there’s no one there to turn to for help or support. The abusive person has isolated you and made you more dependent. That’s the whole idea behind an abusive relationship. It might start out feeling harmless, but then it can escalate to a point where it’s unhealthy because it’s used as a form of control.

Abuse Can Leave Many Types of Wounds

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the possible effects of teen dating abuse include the following:

  • Increased difficulty in school
  • Higher risk of developing an eating disorder or depression
  • Increased use of alcohol and other drugs to cope
  • Higher likelihood of having an abusive partner in the future

Those can sound like pretty big, scary things, but it doesn’t mean that if you’ve experienced abuse that you’re doomed. Not everyone experiences those effects and a lot can depend on what kind of support you have in your life and whether you’re able to seek out help.

If you are experiencing abuse in your relationship or you’re worried that it’s just not healthy, there’s help available. There’s lot of good info online about abusive relationships. You can find more information at Break the Cycle and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, which can be reached 24/7 at 1-866-331-9474 (TTY 1-866-331-8453).

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