Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize that you, or someone you love, might be in a toxic relationship. In fact, many abusive partners may seem great at the beginning of a relationship. Abusive behaviors don’t usually appear overnight. While it may seem like a healthy relationship at first, partners may develop toxic behaviors over time to gain more control and power over their spouse.
Questions to ask yourself if there are signs of an unhealthy relationship
There are many different forms of abuse: physical, emotional, sexual/coercion, reproductive, financial, and digital. If you answer yes to any of the questions below, these are signs of an unhealthy relationship.
- Do you have a partner or spouse who gets very jealous or tries to control your life?
- Does your partner or spouse try to keep you away from or control time with your family or friends?
- Does someone close to you sometimes say insulting things or threaten you?
- Is there someone you are afraid to disagree with because they might hurt you or other family members?
- Are you in a relationship with someone who has pushed, hit, kicked, or otherwise physically hurt you?
- Are you in a relationship with someone who is forcing or coercing you to have sex, or is controlling or denying you access to birth control?
According to Futures Without Violence, 1 in 4 women in the US has experienced violence by a partner at some point in their lives. It is important to know that this is not your fault and you are not alone. If you, or someone you know, ever feels unsafe in their relationship, there is help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 by phone, text, or live chat:
- To reach them by phone, call 1-800-799-7233
- If you are unable to speak safely, you can go to thehotline.org and click the “Chat Now” button for a live chat on their website
- And finally, you can access the text line by texting “LOVEIS” to 22522
If you feel unsafe, create a “path to safety”
If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to create a plan to keep yourself safe. Not every person’s plan will look the same because no situation is the same. It is important to remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can make options feel more possible when you are ready. For more detailed safety plans or more information, go to https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/. Below are some suggestions:
- Code Word: Identify at least two people who you can contact with a code word to let them know you are in trouble and plan for what they will do if you send them the word.
- The Safest Room: If there is an argument, move to the safest room in the house. Ideally, this would be a room you can move to with no weapons, and would have a way you could leave the building. If possible, try to avoid stairs and stay on the first floor of the building you are in.
- If you have children, do not run to where they are as your partner may hurt them as well. Also, plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
- Create a “Peaceful Space”: If you cannot leave your home, try to create a “peaceful space” for yourself in your home (if that is safe for you). You can draw pictures of a more peaceful place and put them on a wall to help you take an emotional break to visualize a more peaceful place. This is also an activity you can do with your children. You can also write positive affirmations and put them up on the wall to remind yourself of your worth. It is never your fault when someone chooses to be abusive to you, and it has no reflection on the value you have as a person.
- If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest public phone is located. Know the phone number to your local shelter. If your life is in danger, call the police.
- Exit Plan: In case you have to flee, create an exit plan ahead of time with someone who could support this need. Is there a trusted friend/relative who you can stay with, if needed?
- Emergency Bag: Pack a bag with an extra set of keys, clothes for you and your children, a pay-as-you-go cellphone, medications, copies of important documents, etc
- Important Documents: Make copies or take pictures of your important documents for yourself and send them to a trusted friend or relative. (IDs, social security cards, immigration documents, birth certificates, health insurance information, and Orders of Protection) Be mindful of sending anything via phone or computer. Please use whatever method is safest for you.