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Friends Being Abused

Whether you know it or not, some of the people in your life may be facing violence at home—a friend, a co-worker or even a family member. For many reasons, it's hard for victims to acknowledge they are being abused—especially when the abuser is supposed to be a loved one.

But there are lots of ways you can tell if something is wrong. Perhaps she often has unexplained injuries, or the explanations she offers don't quite make sense. Perhaps you've noticed that she cancels plans at the last minute without saying why or that she seems afraid of making her partner angry.

If your friend, relative or neighbor is being abused by her partner, then she and her children need help—and you can be an important lifeline.

Friends photo

Let her know you care. Ask direct questions about her situation, gently. Give her time to talk. Ask again a few days later. Don't rush into providing solutions.

Listen without judging. Your friend, sister or co-worker believes her abuser's negative messages about herself. She may feel ashamed, inadequate and afraid that you will judge her. Let her know that it's not her fault. Explain that there's never an excuse for physical violence in a relationship—not alcohol or drugs, not financial pressures, depression jealously . . . not anything.

If she remains in the relationship, continue to be her friend and continue to express your concern for her safety. Remember that, for many women, leaving an abusive relationship can take time.

Tell her that help is available. Encourage her to call HOFM Hotline at (845) 765-0294 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE if she lives outside of this area. She will find a caring person who can give her support and answer her questions.

If she is planning to leave, remind her to take important papers, such as birth certificates, passports, health insurance documents, food stamps, photo ID/driver's license, checkbooks, Social Security cards, immunization records, etc.—for both herself and her children. Encourage her to tell her doctor or nurse about the abuse and to ask him or her to document it in the medical records. Remind her that domestic violence is a serious crime and that she can seek protection from the police and courts.

If she has a protective order against her batterer, let her know that it is against the law for him to come to her home or work. If she chooses, she can ask the police to arrest him for doing so, especially if she has evidence.

Warning signs of an abusive personality

Something's just not right in your relationship, and you can't put your finger on it. So here's some help. If your partner is displaying a combination of these behaviors, then you may getting involved with a potential batterer.

1. He pushes for quick involvement. He comes on very strong, claiming, "I've never felt loved like this by anyone." An abuser pressures a girl for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.

2. He is excessively possessive. He calls constantly or visits unexpectedly, prevents you from going to work because "you might meet someone," and even checks the mileage on your car.

3. He is controlling. He interrogates you intensely (especially if you're late) about whom you talked to and where you were. He insists you ask his permission to go anywhere or do anything.

4. He has unrealistic expectations. He expects you to be the perfect girl all the time and meet his every need.

5. He isolates you. He tries to cut you off from family and friends and accuses people who are your supporters of "causing trouble." An abuser may try to prevent you from holding a job, going to church or being part of school organizations.

6. He blames others for his problems and mistakes. The teacher, the coach, you—it's always someone else's fault if anything goes wrong.

7. He makes everyone else responsible for his feelings. An abuser says, "You make me angry" instead of, "I am angry" or, "You're hurting me by not doing what I tell you."  Less obvious but equally telling is the claim: "You make me happy."

8. He is hypersensitive. He is easily insulted and claims that his feelings are hurt when he is really mad. He rants about the injustice of things that are just part of life.

9. He displays cruelty to animals. He kills or punishes animals brutally.

10. He displays "playful" use of force. He enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will. He forces you to kiss him and doesn't accept "no."

 11. He verbally abuses you. He constantly criticizes you or says blatantly cruel, hurtful things, degrades you, curses and calls you ugly names. If he does this in front of other people, you may really be at risk for physical abuse.

12. He insists on rigid roles for men and women. He is strong. You are weak. He expects you to serve and obey him because you are "his woman."

13. He displays sudden mood swings. He switches from sweetly loving to explosively violent in minutes.

14. He has battered in the past. He admits to hitting girls in the past but says they or the situation made him do it.

15. He threatens you with physical violence. He makes statements like, "I'll break your neck." or "I'll kill you." and then dismiss them with, "Everybody talks that way." or "I didn't really mean it." If he has come this far, it is time to get out and get help.

If your partner hits you in public, tries to strangle you or threatens suicide, get help fast. These are very real, very dangerous warning signs of extreme danger.

This information was adapted from "Signs to Look for in a Battering Personality," a Project for Victims of Family Violence in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


  • According to WomenKind, Inc., 70% of the children of abused women are also physically abused, and 20% are sexually abused. The majority of abusive men were either abused as children or witnessed their mothers being abused.
  • The Surgeon General's Workshop on Violence and Public Health reports that domestic violence is the number one cause of injury to women in the United States—more than rapes, muggings and auto accidents combined.
  • According to the FBI, a woman is beaten in this country every 15 seconds.
  • Nationally, domestic violence kills over 3,000 women each year.
  • Every year domestic violence results in almost 100,000 days of hospitalization, almost 30,000 emergency room visits and almost 40,000 visits to a physician according to WomenKind, Inc.
  • The National Institute of Justice reports that domestic violence accounts for 15% of the total number of all crimes reported.
  • The American Medical Association reports that family violence costs the nation from $5 to $10 billion annually in medical expenses, police and court costs, shelter and foster care, sick leave and absenteeism.