One common misconception that advocates at CADA frequently hear is that someone isn’t experiencing relationship abuse or domestic violence unless they’re experiencing physical violence. Sadly, because of this misconception, many people don’t reach out for help until physical violence occurs, even though they may have endured abuse for years.

Advocates define relationship abuse or domestic violence as a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner. Abuse can come in many forms, such as emotional, sexual abuse, and financial abuse.

Emotional abuse

A person who uses emotional abuse intends to keep their partner reliant on them by controlling them, breaking down their self-esteem, isolating them from their support systems.

Some signs of emotional abuse include:

• Constant put-downs, insults, or name-calling

• Frequent accusations of cheating

• Threatening you, your pets, children, or family members

• Damaging objects by throwing things, punching things, etc.

• Controlling who their partner spends time with or talks with

• Threatening suicide if their partner leaves

• Humiliating and embarrassing their partner in front of others

• Denies causing any harm and blames partner for everything

• Keeping tabs on a partner by tracking their whereabouts or online activity

• Gaslighting or pretending not to understand their partner or their partner’s version of reality

Sexual abuse or coercion

Another common misconception advocates hear frequently is that you can’t experience sexual abuse by someone you’re in a relationship with. This is not true, and a partner can perpetrate sexual abuse or violence against someone they’re in a relationship with. Sexual abuse in a relationship can look like:

• Forcing or manipulating a partner into having sex when they do not want to

• Degrading their partner during sex with name calling or humiliation

• Intentionally passing a sexually transmitted infection to a partner

• Sabotaging a partner’s birth control, lying about birth control methods, or refusing to use protection

• Threatening to release sexual photos or videos of a partner

• Using drugs or alcohol to incapacitate a partner

Financial abuse

Financial abuse happens in 99% of abusive relationships. People who use financial abuse in relationships intend to maintain control over their partner by controlling the finances. Some examples of financial abuse include:

• Controlling partner’s access to money or giving an allowance

• Sabotaging employment

• Threatening to lie and turn you in for “cheating” or “misusing county benefits”

• Opening accounts in your name or children’s names

• Demanding a partner accounts for every cent spent

• Withholding money for basic necessities like food or medicine

Abuse does not have to be physical to be damaging or very dangerous. Emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and financial abuse all make it very difficult for a victim or survivor to escape a relationship. Relationship abuse doesn’t have to leave physical scars or bruises to be damaging or dangerous.

CADA is here to support victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Advocates are available 24/7 to provide emotional support or help. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, advocates are here to help. 24-hour helpline: 1-800-477-0466.

Kristen Walters is the development and communications manager at Committee Against Domestic Abuse, a nonprofit providing safety and support to victims of domestic and sexual violence through education, advocacy and shelter. CADA serves Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Sibley, Waseca, and Watonwan counties.

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