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Red Flags in a Relationship

The feeling of falling in love is wonderful. Everyone starts a new relationship with the hope that it will flourish and grow. But sometimes, it does the opposite. Sometimes, it even becomes dangerous. According to Domesticshelters.org, “One in three women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime.” We all like to think we’d never fall for an abusive partner. But the scary reality is that people put forth their best side in public, and you may not uncover someone’s abusive tendencies until far into the relationship. By then it might be difficult to get out.

Although I certainly don’t want you going into every relationship unwilling to trust your partner, I do encourage you to be wary to some degree and keep your eyes open. With International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women coming up on November 25, I’d like to share some red flags to look for in a relationship that may indicate an abusive situation.

Domesticshelters.org lists the following red flags:

  • Pressures you to move fast in a relationship or pushes for immediate commitment.

  • Has been abusive in previous relationships.

  • Believes in stereotypical gender roles and male supremacy, or is domineering.

  • Is continuously jealous and possessive. Isolates you from your friends and family and may try to persuade you not to have a job.

  • Has two sides to his or her personality—others see your partner as a good person, but behind closed doors, he or she is angry and aggressive toward you.

  • Experiences most emotions in the form of anger and has difficulty conveying other emotions.

  • Has a violent temper and quickly changing moods.

  • Is cruel to animals or children and is insensitive to their suffering.

  • Monitors your whereabouts, activities or spending.

  • Does not listen to you when you say “no” or try to assert your boundaries

This one article from Domesticshelters.org raises the issue of “grey rape,” or a situation where a woman is raped but the rapist claims consent was “up in the air,” leaving a grey area. This can often happen at parties, especially when alcohol is involved. It may sound clichéd by now but it’s important to remember that the absence of “no” does not equate to a “yes,” and consent has to be explicitly given. Otherwise, it’s rape.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline lists these additional red flags on their website:

  • Embarrassing or putting you down

  • Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you

  • Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do

  • Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing your friends or families

  • Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses

  • Preventing you from making your own decisions

  • Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children

  • Preventing you from working or attending school

  • Blaming you for the abuse, or acting like it’s not really happening

  • Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets

  • Intimidating you  with guns, knives or other weapons

  • Shoving, slapping, choking or hitting you

  • Attempting to stop you from pressing charges

  • Threatening to commit suicide because of something you’ve done

  • Threatening to hurt or kill you

  • Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with

  • Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol

  • Preventing you from using birth control or pressuring you to become pregnant when you’re not ready

I think what’s very chilling and very telling is a simple red box I notice at the top of the page when I visit the NDVH website. It says, “Tip: You can quickly leave this website by clicking on the X icon in the bottom right or by pressing the escape key twice.” For people in abusive relationships, even getting help is a nerve-wracking process that must be done in total secrecy for fear of retaliation from the abuser.

One of the most subtle and manipulative moves by an abusive partner is the practice of gaslighting – making a victim feel she is crazy, not remembering things correctly, or overreacting to a situation. Perhaps this is the most disorienting tactic used to control a partner, since it hinges on getting her to distrust her own thoughts and knowledge.

I hope that no one reading this article ever has to go through such an experience. Hopefully as awareness of domestic violence increases, abused women will no longer question the validity of their experiences but will instead seek immediate help. As we work towards a world where women are treated with absolute dignity and respect, we need to look out for ourselves by keeping in mind these red flags for abuse. And if you happen to find yourself in an abusive situation, know that there is help out there. A good place to start is with a call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

This International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let’s all take time to become a little more aware of the struggle many women go through – far too many women. And let’s work towards a world where all women are valued and treated with the respect every single human being deserves.



Corinne McCarthy

Elizabethtown '18

I'm a professional writing major and communications minor at Elizabethtown College.
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