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How to tell if you are in an abusive relationship

The Montreal Gazette recently published an article about the Canadian Orthopedic Association’s efforts to train their clinicians to better detect intimate partner violence as the source of the fractures they treat. In it, they cited Statistics Canada reporting one quarter of all violent crimes in Canada being due to domestic violence and that 80% of these victims are women. Stats Can also found that conjugal violence costs the federal government about $7.4 billion per year in health-care and law-enforcement costs.

¼ of all violent crimes. 7.4 billion dollars. 80% are women.

These numbers compel us all to become aware of the signs of conjugal violence. They say that it takes an average of five to seven acts of violence before a woman begins to think about leaving her abusive partner. And we know that a woman’s risk of serious or fatal injury increases the further into the relationship she proceeds before trying to leave.

Abuse can be hard to detect because it doesn’t start out that way. Abusers are often charming, attentive, and sweet in the beginning of a relationship. An abuser will work to make you feel so appreciated and loved, you won’t even notice they are controlling you. There are warning signs we can look out for, to help us spot an abusive relationship, before it goes too far. These signs pertain to all intimate partner violence, no matter your gender or orientation.

1. Your significant other is loving you one minute and punishing you the next such that you feel like you are on an intense emotional roller coaster.
2. Arguments tend to escalate quickly and rarely resolve.
3. Your partner is jealous of your time with others and increasingly isolates you from friends and family.
4. Your partner pushes for commitment early.
5. They may use concern for your wellbeing as a mask for control.
6. You find yourself asking for their approval.
7. The words they use make you feel small.
8. You start to believe that you are worthless.
9. You work hard to please them and it never seems enough.
10. You find yourself staying silent just to keep the peace.
11. Your partner blames others for their mistakes: “I wouldn’t get so angry if you didn’t…”
12. Your partner uses “playful” force during sex that is not consensual by you.
13. Your partner makes threats of violence.

If you have been a victim of intimate partner violence, or know someone who has, a helpful hotline number to have on hand is 1-800-363-9010. If you or someone you know need help to recover from an abusive relationship and prevent re-experiencing one, our therapists can help. You can reach us at 514 223 5327.

Written by: Dr. Shawna Atkins, Ph.D., OPQ, Psychologist