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Does your partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, caregiver, or a family member:
If any of these statements are true about your relationship, please seek help from the resources pages.
Experiencing even one or two of these in a relationship is a red flag that abuse may be present. Remember, each type of abuse is serious and no one deserves to experience any form of it.
Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy. Examples of physical abuse include:
Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking. There are many behaviors that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse, including:
Financial abuse can be very subtle. It can include telling you what you can and cannot buy or requiring you to share control of your bank accounts. At no point does someone you are in a relationship have the right to use money or how you spend it to control you. Here are some examples of financially abusive behaviors:
Sexual abuse refers to any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don’t want to do. It can also refer to behavior that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including oral sex, rape or restricting access to birth control and condoms.
It is important to know that just because the victim “didn’t say no,” doesn’t mean that they meant “yes.” When someone does not resist an unwanted sexual advance, it doesn’t mean that they consented. Sometimes physically resisting can put a victim at a bigger risk for further physical or sexual abuse. Whether they were intoxicated or felt pressured, intimidated or obligated to act a certain way, sexual assault/abuse is never the victim’s fault.
Some examples of sexual assault and abuse include:
The following behaviors can often be seen in children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence:
Some warning signs that a friend or family may be experiencing abuse include:
If someone you love is being abused, it can be so difficult to know what to do. Your instinct may be to “save” them from the relationship, but it’s not that easy. After all, there are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, and leaving can be a very dangerous time for a victim.
Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions. Additionally, you can offer support in various ways:
Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.
Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.
Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they are the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.
Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner. Remember that you can call the hotline to find local support groups and information on staying safe.
Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Offer to go with them. If they have to go to the police, court or lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.
Male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can and are frequently victims of abuse in the home, either at the hands of their female partner or, in the case of same-sex relationships, their male partner. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
There are likely many more men who do not report or seek help for their abuse, for a variety of reasons:
Our culture still clings to narrow definitions of gender (although there are signs that this is slowly shifting). Young boys are taught not to express their emotions, to “suck it up” and “be a man.” Tony Porter calls this the “man box” in his well-known TED talk. This can be extremely detrimental to boys as they age, especially if they find themselves in an abusive relationship. Men may feel discouraged to talk about what’s going on in their personal lives, or they feel like no one will believe them. They may not even realize that they are being abused, or they might assume they should just deal with the abuse on their own.
The majority of domestic violence stories covered by the media are about male perpetrators and female victims who are typically in heterosexual relationships. While we certainly don’t want to minimize this violence, focusing on only one type of situation renders invisible the many scenarios that do not fit this definition, including abusive relationships among homosexual, bisexual, and trans men. This might make many victims feel like they don’t have the space or the support to speak out about their own experiences and seek help.
When a man is abused, many people don’t take it as seriously (in part due to the previous two reasons we’ve mentioned). The truth is, abuse is not a joke, in any situation, between any two people. All victims deserve support and resources to help them feel safe.
It can seem like the majority of shelters and services for domestic violence victims are women-focused. However, services for male victims do exist. Most federal funding sources require that domestic violence services be provided to all victims of abuse. Our advocates can provide information, assist with safety planning, and/or find local resources, if available. They can also help brainstorm alternative options if local programs are not meeting the requirements for male victims, including who a caller may be able to contact if they believe they have experienced discrimination.
The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:
Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
The majority of perpetrators are someone known to the victim. Approximately seven out of 10 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, such as in the case of intimate partner sexual violence or acquaintance rape.
Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. There are many ways to give consent, and some of those are discussed below. Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries.
Positive consent can look like this:
Recovering from a sexual assault or abuse is a process, and that process looks different for everyone. It may take weeks, months, or years—there’s no timetable for healing. Recovery can include working with a therapist to help deal with some of the challenges you may be facing, practicing self-care and safety planning.