Red Flags

Many survivors of domestic abuse are retrospectively able to recognise some of the ‘red flags’, so concerning behaviours/attitudes displayed by their ex-partner.  At the time, especially at the start of a relationship, we are more likely to ignore some of these red flags as they can be confused for attention from a besotted partner!  If you want to read further comments about the red flags, just click on the word in blue.  It will NOT direct you to a website but to another location in this document.

Examples of Red Flags:

•          Wants to move too quickly into the relationship

•          Early in the relationship is very attentive, flatters you constantly, and seems “too good to be true

•          Wants you all to themselves

•          Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job

•          Does not honour your personal and/or social boundaries  

•          Is jealous, the level can vary, and they may accuse you of being unfaithful

•          Wants to know where you are, it may be all the time or not, but is at a level that you are uncomfortable with 

•          Uses ‘emotional’ blackmail

•          Criticises or puts you down

•          Takes little or no responsibility for his or her behaviour and blames others  

•          They are aggressive and may use threats/acts of violence; they may or may not have used ‘weapons’

•          You feel frightened, you may feel like you are walking on eggshells

•          Gaslighting

•          They have a history of abusing others

•          There is historic/current abuse of animals

•          Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on their former partner

•          Financially abusive, can range from asking for money that they don’t repay through to forcing you to let them control all the household finances

•          The abusive behaviour can just be directed at you, they are calm/polite/friendly etc with everyone else

Moves too quickly into the relationship: So faster than you are comfortable with, they may use excessive flattery or may appear upset if you don’t fall in with their suggestions.  If they know you have been in an abusive relationship previously, they may tell you how they will show you what a good relationship should look like etc

Early in the relationship is very attentive, flatters you constantly, and seems “too good to be true”: This links to point 1 above, they will often seek to find out as much about you/your relationship history and then ‘target’ your ‘vulnerable’ areas. E.G. if they know that your previous partner never took you on dates, they will make great efforts in the initial stages to arrange dates/social outings etc

Wants you all to themselves: This can be fairly subtle, e.g. arranges to do something with you when they know you had something arranged with friends/family; they may say they had forgotten and/or seem upset that you don’t want to do it. It could be that they insist that you stop spending time with your friends or family.  Their reasons could range from saying they feel that your friends/family don’t have your best interests at heart to being openly hostile and threatening

Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job: Again, this can be subtle, maybe using emotional blackmail, and range right through to be openly aggressive and threatening

Does not honour your personal and/or social boundaries: This can cover a whole range of issues, e.g. from using language you are uncomfortable with through to ignoring your boundaries in relation to your sexual relationship.  They may display behaviours when out in public that embarrass you, e.g. swearing etc; they may force you to undertake sexual acts against your will, including rape

Is jealous, the level can vary, and they may accuse you of being unfaithful: They may do it openly but there are other subtle ways they can make you feel they don’t trust you.  For example, they may turn up somewhere uninvited to ‘check up’ on who you are with etc

Wants to know where you are, it may be all the time or not, but is at a level that you are uncomfortable with: They may frequently call/email/text you throughout the day and/or expect you to contact them with the same frequency.  It may impact on you at work if they are constantly contacting you, you may respond to try and reassure them in the hope it will reduce the number of attempts they make to contact you

Uses ‘emotional’ blackmail: For example, appears sad/upset when you disagree with them or you decline to do something with/for them.  This can be done very subtly and if you try and challenge, they may tell you that you are imagining things

Criticises or puts you down: This can be very subtle, or openly critical/unkind/insulting etc.  They may say you are crazy/stupid/fat/unattractive etc. or that no one else would ever want or love you.  They will often target any areas that they know you are sensitive about

A subtle example could be when they say:

“Are you really planning on wearing that dress today”.  When you ask why, they may just respond with something like:

“It’s just that I think the blue dress suits you better”.

Takes little or no responsibility for his or her behaviour and blames others:  This can also include making excuses/stating reasons to account for their behaviour.  They often blame the victim, saying they had ‘wound’ them up; other common reasons they give are stress at work, being under the influence of alcohol, financial issues etc but there is no exhaustive list

They are aggressive and may use threats/acts of violence; they may or may not have used ‘weapons’: Weapons can be any object that they use to threaten/assault you with

You feel frightened, you may feel like you are walking on eggshells: You may be constantly trying to assess their mood which can result in you being constantly anxious that anything you may say or do will trigger an abusive episode.  However, they will often change tactics so what annoys them one day, they tolerate the next, and vice versa. This can leave the victim feeling constantly on edge which of course has a very negative impact on mental health and well being

Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that can leave you questioning your own sanity.  The intention is to completely undermine your own sense of judgement/memories etc and can have a devastating effect on the ability of a victim to be cognitively aware of everyday events.  There are many examples, but some common ones are:

They have a history of abusing others: Perpetrators of domestic abuse often have a history of abusing previous partners with the exception of young people entering their first relationship.  However, unless you know their previous partners, it may be impossible to find this out which is why ‘Clare’s Law’, also known as the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DADS), is a good option to consider.  It can be done with the knowledge of the partner and can support you to seek help to leave the relationship before the abuse begins/escalates etc

There is historic/current abuse of animals: There is a strong link between people who abuse animals and who perpetrate domestic abuse and vice versa

Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on their former partner: For example, they may tell you:

“My ex was totally crazy.” Or “She knew my previous partner cheated on me so she used to flirt with my friends”. There is no exhaustive list as to how they can blame the ex for the failure of the relationship

Financially abusive, can range from asking for money that they don’t repay through to forcing you to let them control all the household finances: They may force you to take out loans in their names, they may withhold money if you don’t engage in sexual activity.  There are a whole range of behaviours but the impact is that it adds to the control they have over you and often becomes a factor in you leaving as you have so much debt and/or you feel that you would be unable to manage your finances on your own

The abusive behaviour can just be directed at you, they are calm/polite/friendly etc with everyone else: This type of behaviour reinforces that it ‘must’ be something about you that provokes then.  Perpetrators may not actually say this, it is the conclusion that you may reach as they have close relationships with family/friends etc and behave, for example, in a kind and caring way with them.  This is strong evidence that domestic abuse is about power and control, as they are able to exert great control when they choose to do so