The Subtle Signs of Domestic Abuse You Cannot Afford to Ignore

I turned on my phone after a long flight and waited for the network to come alive with notifications and missed messages. As I scrolled through my email I saw it, the message from our orchestra director– ‘Tragic News.’

I clicked on the message and the world immediately came to a standstill. My breathe caught in my chest as I read that my friend had been killed the night before. Stunned, I clicked on the link to a news article with details that made me want to vomit. My ears were buzzing. My eyes watered. And one question kept pushing to the forefront of my mind…

How could this have happened?

A hit on the head.

A dumbbell.

The kids were sleeping upstairs.

subtle signs of domestic abuse

Should we have seen it coming?

Over the next few weeks, those of us who were friends with her had numerous hushed discussions about whether or not we should have seen it coming:

  • When she broke her foot last year, was it really because she had tripped on the edge of the pool?
  • When she wore a pull-over in 70 degree weather, was she really cold?

Or, was she masking abuse at the hands of her husband?

I can tell you that none of us had any idea she had been suffering from domestic violence. However, statistics reveal it is highly likely that that fateful night was not the first time her husband allegedly harmed her.

If we knew the subtle signs of abuse, could we have intervened?

If we figured it out, could we have intervened?

Clearly, it is important to not make it worse. Not hurl accusations that are inaccurate. Not take half-measures that endanger the victim of domestic violence even further.

But I can tell you unequivocally that I wish I had been armed with information regarding detection and intervention before that message flashed across my screen.

As her friend.. I would have given anything to have been able to stop it, to have been able to help.

The Subtle Signs of Domestic Abuse You Cannot Ignore

  • They seem overly anxious to please their partner.
  • They are really quick to just go along with whatever their partner wants.
  • They receive harassing phone calls from their partner.
  • There is an expectation that they check in with their partner.
  • They confide in you about their partner’s anger, jealousy, or possessiveness.
  • Frequent injuries, especially with the excuse that is was just an injury.
  • Dressing in clothing that would hide bruises.
  • Frequently missing work, or other obligations without explanation.
  • Signs that they are being isolated: no access to credit cards, a car, restricted from seeing family or friends, etc..
  • Major personality shifts, especially if a formerly confident person exhibits a low self-esteem.

Unfortunately, all of the subtle warning signs are not, in and of themselves, proof that your friend might be suffering from abuse. However, if you suspect something is wrong, please don’t ignore your intuition.

What to do if you suspect a friend is in an abusive relationship

  • Speak up! You might think it is none of your business or that your friend would be offended if you brought it up. However, if they are being abused it could also reassure them that someone actually cares about them. That could be enough to eventually save their life.
  • Talk with your friend privately and let them know they are not alone.
  • Listen to them and offer help if they are open to receiving help.
  • However, honor the choice they make about the level of support they are willing to receive.
  • Don’t:
    • Just give advice
    • Put pressure on your friend
    • Judge or blame them
    • Wait for them to make the first move to tell you what is going on
    • Offer only conditional support

Domestic Abuse and Violence Resources

If you suspect a friend is being abused.. or if you think you are being abused, please don’t hesitate to get help. Seriously, stop reading this post, click on one of the resources below and seek professional guidance. The sense of urgency is worth it. You are not alone.

Thank you for checking in,

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