Inside Hubbard House

Warning Signs of Abuse

Does your partner ever tell you how to behave, restrict your resources and incomes, choose who you are allowed to see, threaten to commit suicide if you leave, criticize and humiliate you, or in any other way try to belittle you and control your behaviors? If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner, constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up, chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive.

Many people, however, do not realize they are being abused. Domestic violence can take on many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, and economic or financial abuse. Just because you are not battered and bruised does not mean you are not being abused.

The most obvious sign of abuse is fear of one’s partner. The fear is often derived from physical and/or sexual abuse, involving punches, slaps, kicks, forced sex, or any other act of violence that may physically injure the victim. Even if the incidence is a minor violent act or if it only occurred once or twice, it is still abuse. Although the physical violence may stop if the victim goes into a passive mode, the abuse is still present, but has shifted from physical to emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is often minimized, overlooked and may be hard to recognize. Yet, it is more common than people think and can be carried out in several different ways; verbal attacks, isolation from friends and family, intimidation to cause obedience, controlling behaviors, threats of physical violence, dominance and humiliation are among the most common forms. The perpetrator may also deny and blame the victim for the abusive behavior.

An abuser’s goal is to control his or her victim and many times they use money to do so. Economic or financial abuse is a subtle form of emotional abuse where the abuser often attempts to restrict the victim’s income and expenses. This is often done by stealing or withholding the victim’s money, credit cards, sabotaging the victim’s job, preventing him or her from working outside the home, or in any other way controlling the victim’s finances.

Domestic abuse is a cyclic behavior in which the abuser goes through different stages, all building up to the violent act. After the abusive incident has occurred, the relationship goes back to “normal,” just to start the cycle all over again. What many people do not know is that victims who leave an abusive relationship run a higher risk of being killed by their abuser, than victims who stay in the relationship. However, the dangers of staying in this kind of relationships without seeking help are very real. Ninety-nine percent of all the women who died as a result of domestic violence from 2005 to mid-2006 never stayed in a shelter, and 95 percent had no contact with a certified domestic violence center within five years of their murder.

If you witness any warning signs of abuse in your own relationship, or in a friend, family member, or co-worker’s, take them very seriously. People who are being abused may  talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness; have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”; dress in covering clothes; rarely appear in public without their partner; and show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. These are only a few examples of the behaviors a domestic violence victim may suffer from.  

Warning signs of abusive behavior:

Physical Abuse

  • Slapping, hitting, choking, kicking, shoving, shaking, punching
  • Throwing objects
  • Threats of violence
  • Physical restraint
  • Spitting

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing sexual acts
  • Forcing overly aggressive or violent sexual acts
  • Coerced sex through manipulation or threat
  • Harassing e-mails or other communication containing sexual content
  • Forcing a partner to watch pornography or other sexual acts
  • Denying contraception or protection

Emotional Abuse

  • Name calling, insults, verbal attacks
  • Humiliation
  • Destroying keepsakes
  • Harming pets
  • Making the partner feel guilty for the abuse
  • Making her or him feel bad about themselves
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Playing mind games

Economic Abuse

  • Not allowing a partner to work
  • Financial isolation by limiting access to money
  • Controlling financial decisions without partner’s consent
  • Forcing partner to use money for the abuser’s needs while neglecting other family and victim’s needs.

No one should live in fear of the one they love.

If you or anyone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the Hubbard House Domestic Violence Hotline at (904) 354-3114 or at (800) 500-1119.


Founded as the first domestic violence shelter in Florida in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 5,000 women, children, and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic childcare, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit to learn more.

By Vicky Krook