Signs of Domestic Violence and How to Help
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
In recognition of this month, we created this guide to help you identify some signs of domestic violence and how you can help. By reaching out to a friend, family member or coworker that you suspect is being abused, you can save a life.
It’s important to remember that not all abuse is physical. Emotional, mental and financial abuse can also take a hefty toll on a person and may lead to deadly consequences.
If someone is physically abused, they often have visible signs. They may also have inconsistent and vague explanations of how they were injured. Some indicators to look for are:
- Black eyes
- Red or purple marks on the neck
- Sprained wrists
- Sudden weight gain or loss
Sometimes when a person is subjected to abuse, they will try to hide the physical traces of violence with clothing and makeup. A person typically wears shorts and a blouse may switch to long-sleeved shirts and pants to hide their injuries.
If you notice that an ordinarily outgoing and friendly person has become quieter and distant, it may be because of abuse. The once reliable friend may start cancelling plans at the last minute and make excuses not to attend events and gatherings.
They no longer participate in activities they used to enjoy because their controls their every move. Their abuser wants to prevent them from engaging with others because they want to control every aspect of their victims’ life.
You may hear from your friend less often, and they only share surface-level information about their life. They may be ashamed of their situation and don’t want their loved ones to be suspicious in an effort to protect their abuser. By creating distance from their loved ones, victims hide their abuse.
On the contrary, isolation may be imposed by the abuser. By controlling their victim’s whereabouts, it’s less likely that someone will recognize the abuse. The abuser wants to break down the victim’s relationships with friends and family because those relationships pose a threat in their eyes.
A person in an abusive situation may be anxious or easily agitated. Abusers seek control of their victims, causing their victims to feel like they’re constantly walking on eggshells and can never let their guard down.
Changes in sleeping habits
The survivor may often have red or puffy eyes from lack of sleep or crying. They’re unable to sleep well because of nervousness and worrying all night long. Their abuser may also control their schedule and not allow a peaceful moment for the victim to relax.
You might notice that the victim of abuse is not giving all the information or telling stories that don’t add up. If you ask why they called out sick from work, they might say they had the flu – but the truth is, they didn’t want their coworkers to see their black eye.
The victim doesn’t tell you the truth to cover for their abuser, hoping their story won’t raise questions.
The biggest lie is that they’re okay and don’t need help.
Of course, these signs could be due to many other factors, but they are typical of domestic violence survivors who feel trapped in an abusive relationship. If you notice someone who displays a combination of these signs, don’t ignore it.
How can you help someone who is being abused?
Domestic violence is complex.
It’s challenging to know what to do when you suspect someone is in the midst of domestic violence. Each survivor’s situation is unique, and there is no clear-cut solution to get them the help they deserve.
Most likely, you will not personally witness your friend or loved one being abused. Abusers don’t want to raise suspicion, so they make every effort to keep their violent ways hidden. If you witness abuse or violence, it’s critical to call the police.
If the suspected victim shuts you out, you can slip them a note with the phone number of the National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-723 and Mosaic’s 24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 214-823-4434.
Victims of domestic violence often feel isolated and think they have nowhere to turn, and they may be relieved to know they are not alone. Make time for them and let them know you’re concerned for their safety and wellbeing.
Tell them they can confide in you, and you will keep everything confidential. Don’t try to force them to tell you anything they’re not comfortable with and listen without judgment.
Let them know they are loved and valued, and you want to ensure they’re safe.
Domestic violence survivors may feel like no one would believe them if they came forward because their abuser doesn’t show their darkness to the outside world.
If a person does open up to you, let them know that you believe them and that they don’t deserve to be abused. They need to know that violence is not normal and never okay.
Help the person find specific support and resources. Research social workers, attorneys, counselors, apartments, or whatever else the person may need. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-723 or Mosaic Family Services 24 Hour Crisis Hotline at 214-823-4434 for assistance finding resources near you.
Stand with them
Your friend or loved one is probably scared to seek help and they need to know they’re not alone. Offer to drive them to the police station or go with them to a doctor’s appointment to be there for moral support. If the victim has a specific need, don’t hesitate to help them if you’re able.