Abuse means treating someone with violence, disrespect, cruelty, harm, or force. When someone treats their partner in any of these ways, it’s called an abusive relationship. Abuse in a relationship can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Or it could be all of these.
An abusive partner might use mean words, threats, or shaming. They might act with jealousy or controlling behavior. Or with physical or sexual violence. These things can start small and build over time.
If you think you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s time to get help. There are people to help you get to a safe situation. There are people to help you sort out all the emotions of partner abuse.
Am I in an Abusive Relationship?
Here are some warning signs. You might be in an abusive relationship if someone:
- harms you physically in any way. This includes hitting, pushing, shaking, or kicking.
- threatens to harm you if you leave the relationship
- threatens to harm themselves if you leave the relationship
- forces you, or tries to force you, into any type of sexual act that you don’t want
- tries to control parts of your life, like how you dress, who you hang out with, and what you say
- often shames you or makes you feel unworthy
- twists the truth to make you feel you are to blame for their actions
- demands to know where you are at all times
- often acts jealous or angry when you want to spend time with your friends
- makes mean or rude comments on social media
- demands or asks for your sign-in information for your social media accounts
Get help from a therapist or someone at a helpline if you feel unsure of whether you're in an abusive relationship.
How Can I Get Out of an Abusive Relationship?
- Know that you have the right to be safe. You have the right to be treated with respect. Knowing this is the first step.
- Confide in someone you know. Tell a parent, trusted adult, health provider, or friend what you’re going through so they can help. Many adults know how to help in this situation. An adult might be able to get you to safety faster than a friend can.
- Get help and support from experts. Going through abuse can leave you feeling confused, scared, or exhausted. Find a therapist to help you get your emotional strength back. They can help you sort through the many emotions you might be dealing with.
- Get advice from someone at a helpline too. Learn more about how to get out of an abuse relationship safely. The helpline advisors also can talk to you about other things that might help you move forward.
If You Need Help Right Away
If you have been physically hurt, get medical care or call 911.
Helplines can give advice on how to get out of an abusive relationship safely:
How Can I Deal With the Emotions I Have?
- Learn how partner abuse affects people. Partner abuse can cause harm you can see — things like bruises, sprains, or marks. But it also can cause deep emotional hurt that you can’t see. Deep emotional stress that makes you feel unsafe is called trauma.
- Notice how relationship abuse has affected you. Abuse by a partner can leave you feeling shaken or scared. You might feel angry, sad, anxious, or depressed because of what you’ve been through. It’s natural to have many different emotions after going through abuse. Sometimes the deep stress lasts even after the abuse has ended. Notice what it’s been like for you.
- Get help from a trauma therapist. There is therapy to help people deal with this deep stress. It is called trauma therapy. It is a type of talk therapy that counselors and therapists use. It helps people who have been through trauma — like abuse. Find a therapist to work with.
- Learn to cope, and share your story. Trauma therapy can help you feel safe and supported. In therapy, you can learn coping skills and have support. This helps you face difficult memories, tell your story, and find healing. Find the words to talk about what you’ve been through.
- Move forward toward healthier relationships. Sharing your story with a trauma therapist can ease the emotional hurt of partner abuse. It also can help you find your inner strength and move toward healthy relationships that add to your wellbeing.
Reviewed by: Allison T. Dovi, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2021