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Signs of an abusive relationship

3-minute read

An abusive relationship can involve a partner or ex-partner, a carer or guardian, a family member, or anyone who is in close contact with another person.

Learning about the warning signs is important. You could be in an abusive relationship if the other person:

  • frequently insults and ridicules you, puts you down or humiliates you
  • ignores your feelings, opinions, thoughts or choices
  • controls what you do, where you go and who you see
  • is excessively jealous
  • threatens to hurt you, people close to you, your pets or themselves
  • threatens to take your children away or uses them against you
  • is violent, aggressive or forces you to do sexual things against your will
  • blames you for their behaviour or unhappiness
  • limits your access to money, the phone or car
  • threatens to ‘out’ you to your family, friends, or employer.

If you are in an abusive relationship you may:

  • feel scared of upsetting the other person
  • change your behaviour or avoid certain topics
  • feel afraid of being physically hurt
  • feel powerless, worthless, stupid, confused, ashamed, depressed or alone
  • feel afraid to tell anyone, or be worried that nobody will believe you
  • be scared of coping alone or that it will get worse if you leave
  • wonder if you are insane, or have suicidal thoughts
  • believe that you deserve to be mistreated
  • believe that you are to blame.

Children living in an abusive relationship might:

Children can be emotionally and psychologically hurt, even if they are not directly abused. They may not learn about good relationships, and are more likely to use controlling and manipulative behaviour themselves.

What if I'm in an abusive relationship?

It can be hard to work out what to do if you are in an abusive relationship. You could:

  • protect yourself – if you feel you are in danger, get out of the situation and call the police
  • talk to someone you trust – this could be a friend, family member or a counsellor, who can help you decide what to do next
  • come up with a plan – decide what to do the next time something bad happens. If you feel safe to confront the other person, tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable. Set boundaries about what you will and will not accept. You could also seek counselling, either together or alone.

Where to get help

People often stay in an abusive relationship for longer than they should. Once you know that you are in an abusive relationship, you should do something about it

If you (or someone else) are in danger, or if you have been threatened, physically hurt or sexually assaulted, then call the police on triple zero (000). With enough evidence, they can lay criminal charges.

Alternatively, you can call the following helplines (24 hours a day, 7 days a week):

Last reviewed: August 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

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