What Are The Signs of Domestic Abuse? – Ten Warning Signs

August 11, 2022

Domestic abuse is never an easy topic to discuss. Many of us find it uncomfortable to raise  and don’t want to feel like we are overstepping our mark.

Somewhat of a taboo, domestic abuse can affect both men and women. In fact, in the US, 1 out every 4 women will experience domestic abuse within a relationship in their lifetime, and 1 in every 7 men will too. This means that on average, according to the NCADV, 20 people are abused by a partner every minute in the USA.

I believe that a more frank and open discussion about domestic abuse needs to be had. Men and women are trapped in abusive relationships and they need to be freed. Whether they’re staying for the sake of children, financially stuck or in fear of cultural judgement, these victims are all valid and we must do better to spot the warning signs of domestic abuse. 

This article will explore what domestic abuse is and ultimately answer the question, what are the signs of domestic abuse?

What is the definition of domestic abuse?

According to women’s aid, the definition of domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. 

By this definition, domestic abuse is extremely common, which is why it is crucial to stay informed on the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse.

What are the different types of domestic abuse?

There are many more types of domestic abuse than you might think; domestic abuse does not just take form physically. 

The different types of domestic abuse include :

  • Physical violence 
  • Emotional/ psychological abuse 
  • Sexual abuse 
  • Financial/ material abuse
  • Modern slavery 
  • Discriminatory abuse 
  • Harassment and stalking 
  • Online/digital abuse 

What are the signs of domestic abuse? The things to look out for

The signs and symptoms of domestic abuse are individual to every victim. However, I’ve compiled some of the tell-tale signs to look out for; they might just save someone you care about. 


These are merely the most common signs of domestically abusive relationships. It could be that your loved one is experiencing other difficulties and is showing these symptoms for those reasons. If someone is showing these symptoms, they MAY be experiencing domestic abuse.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing domestic abuse, I encourage you to be brave and take the first step. Contact a domestic abuse solicitor today.

Only through this can you be on the road to safety and happiness once again.

Now, on with our list of the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse.

The victim may be: 

. Unable to make a decision without their partner

This can include even the smallest of decisions. For example, buying a new top. They may be in fear of how it looks or how much it costs and what their partner’s reaction to this will be. 

Look out for how your loved one reacts to simple decisions such as small purchases or making plans. Abusers will often do whatever they can to take control of a victim’s life, aspiring to derail their goals right down to their goal of purchasing a new top.

. They have a on edge and overly alert demeanour when they’re with you

Does your usually calm and collected friend seem skittish? Do they appear to be on edge as though they are awaiting something bad to happen? This can be a sign of domestic abuse as the abuser will try to create a climate of fear in their victim’s mind.

This flighty behaviour can stem from being alert to anything that could potentially cause conflict. They are hyper-aware of what sets their abuser off, and therefore want to be on the lookout. 

. They excuse all of their partners’ behaviour 

Are they excusing all of their partners’ behaviour? Think small as well, are they excusing everything little thing they do? 

For example: 

Your work friend takes a call from their partner, in which their partner talks to them demeaningly. Your colleague justifies this by saying ‘he/she is just super stressed with work lately’. 

By justifying the behaviour of their abuser, they are trying to convince both themselves and you that these are normal behaviours in a relationship; they are, of course, not.

. Extreme changes in sleep habits 

Extreme changes in sleep habits can take the form of sleep deprivation or sleeping too much. These are common symptoms of mental health issues which can happen as a result of domestic abuse and the toll it takes on a person’s mind.

Victims may sleep to avoid the abuse, or the knock on mental effects of the abuse. Sleep is an escape for some people, a chance to get away from their reality.

. Extremely apologetic or meek 

For example:

If someone is excessively apologising for being a minute late or for forgetting to bring you back the book they borrowed from you. 

You have to consider where this is coming from. Typically, excessive apologising comes from a place of low self-esteem and fear of conflict. It makes the victim absorb too much of the responsibility and this can translate to everyday situations such as the one mentioned above.

. Low self-esteem 

It is well researched that low self-esteem is one of the most common signs of domestic abuse. Low self-esteem from a relationship comes from being overly told by an abuser that everything is the victim’s fault. This, in turn, causes great self-doubt and enables poor self-esteem. 

This may show itself in negative self-talk or being overtly critical towards themselves.

. Depression symptoms 

A knock on effect of domestic abuse is for someone to be showing the classic symptoms of depression. These are known to be extreme exhaustion, feelings of hopelessness, and poor sleep. However, there are many other different symptoms of depression. These generally happen as a result of domestic abuse and can manifest themselves physically in a person. Be sure to look out for these in your friends or loved ones.

The abuser may be:

. Extremely jealous or possessive

A level of rigid control is often seen in domestically abusive relationships. Whether it’s about where they go, what they wear or how they spend their money, control is at the centre of a lot of abusive relationships. 

Is your loved one making decisions autonomously? Or is their partner there making them all for them? Have they gone from wearing whatever they want to covering up all of a sudden?

These are all things to ask yourself when worrying that your loved one is being abused. 

. Trying to isolate the victim 

If an abuser wants to block out external voices telling their victim to leave them, they will commonly cut them off from friends and family. 

Yes, a common tactic employed by many abusers is isolation. In keeping their victim separate from their friends or family, they are able to trick them into a mindset of believing the only person they need is the abuser. This, in turn, can lead the victim to believe that the abuser is all they have. Therefore, they will begin believing that they have no other people to turn to which is often not the case.

. Love bombing the victim 

Love bombing is the practice of where an abusive partner is bombarding ‘love’ onto their victim and is part of emotional abuse and coercive control. It could include excessive affection, excessive compliments, declarations of love, gifts and praise.

This tactic leads the victim to believe that the abuser has good intentions; this makes them think that the abuser cares for them. However, it is really just a tactic used by the abuser to lull them into a false sense of security within the relationship.

Then, they have the love gifts and praise to hold over the victim whenever they need ammunition. 

How can I help someone showing the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse?

If you’re spotting any of the signs and concerned for the safety and wellbeing of a loved one, take action. 

If someone is in immediate danger and needs assistance right away, contact the police or the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 0808 2000 247. Or, get in contact with a local domestic violence solicitor to get on the path to recovery today.

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