If a close family member, friend or even your neighbor is experiencing or is under the threat of domestic violence, don’t hold back – act now. Getting involved in someone’s private business, especially such an intimate matter as domestic abuse, is never an easy feat, but standing by and letting it go on should not be an option. If you’re still not sure whether your assessment is correct, there are signs of abuse you can look out for to confirm your suspicion.
Signs of Physical Abuse
A high-percentage of victims undergoing domestic violence will not show their scars, bruises and other evidence of physical abuse openly for the same reason they won’t report their stories – they are too afraid or ashamed to speak up. Instead they’ll hide their bruises beneath make-up and blame broken bones on “clumsiness” and inconveniently placed toys. Long-sleeved clothes and long jeans start becoming the favourite outfit of choice, even during the summer season. Scarves become a daily accessory and sunglasses are worn indoors.
The psychological factors of abuse make themselves noticeable on a physical level too. Domestic violence keeps its victims in a constant state of anxiety which affects appetite and spurs on rapid weight-loss. This anxiety can also lead to insomnia or restless sleep, the physical manifestation of which includes dark circles under the eyes and a generally pale complexion. This can cause the affected to work with make-up more heavily than usual. They may also move cautiously due to hidden injuries or internal pains.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Signs of emotional abuse can be much harder to recognise if the person you suspect is being mistreated is not someone close to you. Even a gradual change can be rather obvious when you’ve known someone your entirely life or at the very least for a few months. These changes in behavior can be subtle at times, but if you have any cause for alarm, they are definitely worth looking out for.
You may notice, for example, that your friend or family member has become unusually quiet and withdrawn and seems to be lacking her usual zest for life. Even their favourite hobbies are no longer of interest and they are less and less interested in socialising – even with you. Being trapped in a cycle of emotional abuse lower’s a person’s self-esteem significantly and can cause them to become apologetic and meek, not just around their abusers but their nuclear family environment as well. They may act extremely jumpy and agitated and might be turning to drugs and alcohol for a sense of relief and control.
How You Can Help
If this article has confirmed your fears, it’s time to find the best way to help the affected person. Domestic violence is a sensitive issue, hence the need to approach it with compassion and respect. Carefully approach the person in question before you resort to taking action yourself – you may be putting the affected person in danger if you approach the situation wrong. Show them your support – gently tell them about your observations and let them know that you will do everything possible to help them without causing them unnecessary stress. If they clearly refuse your approach, contact a specialist service or charity for further advice on what you can do. Never call the police without consent.
Once you have received permission from the victim, make sure to offer them a safe environment where they can collect themselves and find a moment of peace. You can’t take the pain away, but a warm cup of tea and a warm, welcoming space can go a long way. If there are children involved, make sure they are offered something to eat or drink and distract them with toys or a family-friendly film or TV program. Whether the children were directly affected by violence or not, they are incredibly sensitive to negative energies and sudden shifts in emotions and will know something is happening even if they can’t yet verbalise it. Do what you can to redirect their focus onto something comforting and warm.
The most important thing to remember, is to never speak from a place of judgement. You don’t know what the person has been through and what kept them in an abusive relationship or family situation – they may be frightened for their own or even their children’s life; they may have tried to leave before with alarming repercussions. They may have been experiencing these forms of emotional and physical violence for so long, they no longer believe in a life without it.