Recognizing the Red Flags of Domestic Violence

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Domestic violence affects millions of people around the world. It can happen in any relationship and to people of all ages, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds. Physical violence is by far the most common form of domestic violence, but it is not the only form. Domestic violence can take many forms, such as emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse.

In this blog, we’ll explore the subtle signs and behaviors that may indicate an abusive relationship, empowering individuals to seek help and support when needed.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the most recognizable form of domestic violence. Often portrayed as hitting and punching, it can include more severe tactics such as kicking or hitting with objects.The severity of physical abuse can escalate over time, putting the victim’s life in danger. 

Unfortunately, physical abuse is not always visible. Internal injuries like broken bones and concussions are more serious and overlooked. It’s important to pay attention to any signs of physical distress or discomfort, as well as any changes in behavior or mood that may indicate underlying abuse. Seeking medical attention and support from trusted individuals or organizations is critical for ensuring the safety and well-being of victims of physical abuse.

Emotional Manipulation

Emotional abuse may be harder to identify as it is easier for the victim to mask. While it may not present physical signs, the deep psychological effects are just as damaging. Red flags and common signs of emotional abuse include constant criticism, humiliation, manipulation, and threats intended to control the victim’s thoughts and actions.


Abusers who isolate their victims aim to keep them from their family, friends, coworkers, or other support networks. They horde their intentions by discouraging social activities, monitoring phone calls and messages, or dictating who the victim can and cannot see. Being isolated makes it harder for the victim to seek help and escape the abusive relationship.

Financial Control

 Financial control is one of the easiest ways for an abuser to control their victim. Abusers restrict access to shared accounts and money, preventing their victim from spending on necessities and even working. It can also lead to sabotaging their employment, which further adds to the victim’s dependency on their abuser. It also makes it more difficult to leave the relationship safely.

Control of Daily Activities

Like controlling finances, abusers often seek to take control over every aspect of the victim’s life, including their daily activities and routines. This can involve monitoring their whereabouts, dictating what they can wear or eat, and limiting their access to transportation or resources.


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation aimed at making the victim doubt their sanity and perception of reality. Abusers may deny abusive behavior, blame the victim for their actions, or distort the truth to undermine the victim’s confidence and sense of self-worth. 

Threats and Intimidation

Threats of violence, whether directed at the victim or their loved ones, are common tactics to maintain control. This can include threats of physical harm, destruction of property, or even threats of suicide if the victim attempts to leave.

Sexual Coercion

Sexual violence and coercion are forms of domestic abuse that can take many forms, including rape, unwanted sexual advances, and manipulation or guilt-tripping to obtain sex. Consent is paramount in any healthy relationship, and no one should ever be forced or coerced into sexual activity against their will.

Denial and Blame

Abusers frequently deny or minimize their abusive behavior, shifting the blame onto the victim or external circumstances. They may portray themselves as the victim and downplay the severity of the abuse, making it harder for the victim to seek help and escape the cycle of violence.

Help is Available

Recognizing the red flags of domestic violence is the first step towards breaking free from an abusive relationship and seeking help and support. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, reach out to trusted friends, family members, or support organizations for assistance. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available. For more questions or support, contact Sterk Family Law Group through the form below or by calling 815-600-8950.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.799.SAFE (7233)

Illinois Department of Human Services Domestic Violence Helpline:

1-877-TO END DV or 1-877-863-6338 (Voice) 1-877-863-6339 (TTY)
The hotline is toll-free, confidential, multilingual, and open 24- hours.


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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