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Domestic Violence Red Flags

Relationships are never perfect: they can be messy and filled with rough patches. Arguments happen, and friction is bound to develop at some point, yet some relationships veer across the line to be flat-out toxic. Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of coercive behavior that is used by one person to gain power and control over another person. Forms of domestic violence may include: physical harm, economic abuse, gaslighting, verbal abuse, threats and intimidation, using privilege, manipulating children, abusing the legal system, sexual abuse, isolation, and any other behaviors which make one person feel small or afraid.

Today, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’ve collected some Domestic Violence Red Flags for you. This is not an exhaustive list, but merely some notable behaviors to look out for:

Photo of a red flag against a blue sky
  • Moving Too Quickly:

Everyone feels comfortable moving at a different pace in relationships, but if your significant other insists in moving at a pace which you are not comfortable with, then that may be an issue. Communication is crucial to any good relationship, and so is your comfort.

  • Overstepping Your Boundaries:

Being in a relationship does not mean you give consent for any sexual activity, even ones you’ve enjoyed before. You always have the right to say no and have your boundaries respected. If this is not the case, then you may be experiencing domestic violence.

  • Insisting You Are Always Wrong:

Statistically speaking, there is no way that you are always wrong. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes (and no one is right all the time), but your opinions matter. You might be told that violence or insults never happened, or that you are “crazy”. If you find yourself walking on eggshells and trying to anticipate a “right” answer to forestall your partner exploding, then you may be experiencing gaslighting.

  • Physical Violence:

Physical violence is never okay in a relationship. If someone is hitting, slapping, punching, strangling (or “choking”), burning, or pushing you, then that is domestic violence. Similarly, if your significant other has a history of violence toward others, particularly family or past partners, then this is also a red flag. It is important to note that BDSM is distinct from domestic violence as BDSM includes consent from all parties.

  • Insulting Or Constantly Criticizing You:

Calling you insulting names is not loving or endearing. This is verbal abuse.

  • Controlling or Damaging Your Finances:

If your partner takes your money “for safekeeping”, gives you a small allowance, or abuses your credit, then you may be experiencing economic abuse.

  • Isolating You:

It’s natural to want to spend time together when in a relationship. When someone wants to spend all their time alone with you, this may be a red flag. This can include someone spreading rumors about you behind your back to turn friends and family away, or telling you that your loved ones don’t care about you. If someone encourages you to move somewhere far away, seeks to prevent you from communicating with others, encourages you to stay home all the time, or tampers with your job prospects, these are all concerning. You are easier to control when you are cut off from your support networks and cannot ask for help.

  • Stalking You:

Even if you are in a relationship, stalking can be a tactic of domestic violence. An abusive partner may insist on learning your login information, scrutinizing messages you send on your phone, or loitering nearby when you have appointments. This also includes video surveillance, utilizing other people to surveil you, or using social media and GPS. Similarly, if your partner is exhibiting stalking behaviors (following, harassing, and employing any other means to get in contact) with someone else, then that is also a red flag.

  • Acting Like A Completely Different Person Around Other People:

We all know people who seem to able to switch personas just like “that”. If your partner who “cannot control themselves” suddenly can around other people, then that is a red flag. Abusers often are very charismatic in public and may hold positions of authority. If someone can switch moods in the blink of an eye or acts very differently toward other people, you are not being treated with the respect that you deserve.

  • Abusing Animals or Threatening to Abuse Animals:

Animal abuse is intimately linked to other forms of violence, including domestic violence. This can manifest as being forced to abuse an animal to prevent worse abuse, threatening to harm an animal if you leave the relationship, or abusing an animal as an example of potential future abuse to you.

  • Refusing to Take Responsibility:

Someone consistently refusing to take responsibility for their own actions is a red flag of domestic violence. Sometimes abusive partners may blame their current behavior on past trauma. Although, past trauma leaves lasting scars, it is never a justification for domestic violence, and this is simply another manipulation tactic. Your partner is responsible for their current actions and should instead encourage dialogue about potential triggers to make sure you are both supported.

Domestic Violence encompasses a range of tactics for one person to gain power and control over another. If any of these Red Flags sound familiar, then it may be time to take stock of your relationship and perhaps talk things over with a friend. Remember that in a relationship, you are equal partners who both deserve love and support. If the balance is skewed toward one person, then the relationship is no longer an equal partnership.

If you have questions or would like to speak to one of our confidential advocates, call Safeline’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-639-7233 (1-800-NEW-SAFE) or email us at

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