Knowing the signs of an abusive relationship

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Valentine’s Day, many couples celebrate their love with flowers and romantic dinners. But for those in an abusive or violent relationship, experts say there’s not just physical abuse, there’s mental and emotional abuse, financial abuse, and even parental abuse.

Domestic violence is a growing concern around the world. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls made to US domestic violence hotlines.

Deborah Sabilia, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, specializes in intimate relationships, sex crimes, and domestic violence training.

She said that getting out of an abusive relationship isn’t easy, and for some, it can feel impossible.

“There could be (deep-rooted) love there, there could be a financial aspect,” she said. “If he leaves, you have absolutely nothing. You don’t have resources, you can have children. You may not have an education, you may not have a job.”

Data shows that women are more commonly the victims of abusive relationships. However, men can also be victims.

About 1 in 10 men in the US have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The majority of first-time victimizations occur before the age of 25, with many experiencing violence before reaching the age of 18.

For both men and women, there are resources locally in Corpus Christi to help, including the Corpus Christi Police Department’s Victims Advocates Program.

“One of the things we do is sit down and talk with our victims about having a code that they can share with their children and family members,” said Bertha Aguas of the Corpus Christi Police Department. “We always try to advise them to call 911 and let someone know. We make security plans and give them information on how to gather documents if they have to leave in a hurry.”

When completely evading an abuser, restraining orders are a legal tool that can help. The Nueces County Attorney’s Office is a place to help victims begin the process of filing a personal protection order.

In taking the next step to file a restraining order, Nueces County attorney Jenny Dorsey said several items are needed to get help.

“If there’s an attack, we need pictures. If you have any of the results and injuries from the attack, we need the dates and times the attacks took place,” Dorsey said. “If the police have been called and made a report, we need the police report number to be able to help. If there is harassment or stalking, we need proof of it. If there is harassment on social media, we need copies of the posts. Often, it’s not just one time. By the time we see people there have been several or at least more than one incident.”

Knowing the warning signs

Every relationship is different and domestic violence doesn’t always look the same. A characteristic shared by most abusive relationships is that the abusive partner tries to establish or gain power and control through many different methods, at different times.

Some common signs of abusive behavior in a partner include:

  • Saying you never do anything right.
  • Showing extreme jealousy of your friends or spending time away from them.
  • Preventing or discouraging you from spending time with friends, family or colleagues.
  • Insulting, humiliating, or embarrassing you, especially in front of other people.
  • Prevent you from making your own decisions, including about working or going to school.
  • Controlling household finances without discussion, including taking their money or refusing to provide money for necessary expenses.
  • Pressure you to have sex or perform sexual acts that you are not comfortable with.
  • Pressure you to use drugs or alcohol.
  • Intimidate you through threatening looks or actions

While there are many options and resources available, it can get started with just a phone call.

If you or someone you know is struggling in an abusive relationship, here are some helpful links to organizations and agencies that can help victims:

You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

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Knowing the signs of an abusive relationship

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