Domestic violence is a serious threat to many women.

Know the signs of an abusive relationship and how to leave a dangerous situation.

Your partner apologizes and says the hurtful behavior won’t happen again — but you fear it will. At times you wonder whether you’re imagining the abuse, yet the emotional or physical pain you feel is real. If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing domestic violence.

Domestic violence — also called intimate partner violence — occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. Men are sometimes abused by partners, but domestic violence is most often directed toward women. Domestic violence can happen in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.

Abusive relationships always involve an imbalance of power and control. An abuser uses intimidating, hurtful words and behaviors to control his or her partner.

It might not be easy to identify domestic violence at first. While some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time.

You might be experiencing domestic violence if you’re in a relationship with someone who:

  • Calls you names, insults you or puts you down

  • Prevents or discourages you from going to work or school or seeing family members or friends

  • Tries to control how you spend money, where you go, what medicines you take or what you wear

  • Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful

  • Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs

  • Threatens you with violence or a weapon

  • Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets

  • Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will

  • Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it

If you’re lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you might also be experiencing domestic violence if you’re in a relationship with someone who:

  • Threatens to tell friends, family, colleagues or community members your sexual orientation or gender identity

  • Tells you that authorities won’t help a lesbian, bisexual or transgender person

  • Tells you that leaving the relationship means you’re admitting that lesbian, bisexual or transgender relationships are deviant

  • Says women can’t be violent

  • Justifies abuse by telling you that you’re not “really” lesbian, bisexual or transgender

Break the cycle:

If you’re in an abusive situation, you might recognize this pattern:

  • Your abuser threatens violence.

  • Your abuser strikes.

  • Your abuser apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts.

The cycle repeats itself. The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the greater the physical and emotional toll. You might become depressed and anxious, or begin to doubt your ability to take care of yourself. You might feel helpless or paralyzed.

You may also wonder if the abuse is your fault — a common point of confusion among survivors of domestic abuse that may make it more difficult to seek help.

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