Flaticon Icon This Byte depicts scenes of abuse. It might be triggering for some readers.

A collage of different emotions associated with abuse. Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

Do you know someone who might be in an abusive relationship?

Do you know the signs of abuse and how it can impact a survivor's life?

Have you ever wondered what you can do to support a loved one who is trying to leave an abusive relationship?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you to organize and plan their escape safely.

What Is Abuse?

Abuse is the use of power and control over another person through physical, emotional, sexual, financial, or psychological means.

A woman crying. Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Common types of abuse include:

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  • Physical abuse is when someone hurts or injures another person through physical force, such as choking, hitting, or punching.

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  • Emotional abuse is a form of control where one person uses emotional tactics to "criticize, embarrass, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate someone."

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  • Verbal abuse is when someone uses hurtful words to humiliate or control another person, such as yelling, name-calling, or making threats.

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  • Sexual abuse is the act of forcing someone into unwanted sexual contact or behavior, including assault, rape, molestation, and harassment, which can cause physical and emotional harm.

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  • Financial abuse is when someone uses money or financial resources to control or exploit another person, such as by withholding money, stealing assets, or preventing the victim from earning a living.

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  • Digital abuse is the use of technology or social media to harass, intimidate, or control someone, which can include threatening messages, monitoring online activity, and spreading rumors or personal information without consent.

Patterns of Abuse

The cycle of abuse is a pattern that can occur in abusive relationships. It typically involves four stages:

  1. Cycle of abuse: 1. Tension building 2. Incident 3. Reconciliation 4. Calm Tension building: This first stage involves increasing tension and stress in the relationship. The victim may feel like they're walking on eggshells around the abuser, trying to avoid triggering their anger.

  2. Incident of abuse: Next come the actions of abuse. They can take many forms, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.

  3. Reconciliation: After the incident of abuse, the abuser may apologize and make promises to change their behavior. They may be affectionate and loving towards their victim, leading the victim to believe that the relationship can be saved.

  4. Calm: The final stage is a period of calm in the relationship, where there is little to no tension or conflict. However, this calm is often short-lived, and the cycle can begin again with tension building.

Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Don't all couples argue and fight? Spotting red flags in someone else's relationship can be difficult.

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Look out for signs your loved one may be trapped in an abusive relationship.

Warning signs of abuse:

  • Unexplained injuries or bruises

  • Frequently apologizing for behavior

  • Seeming nervous around their partner

  • Increased anxiety or depression

  • Less confident and not their usual self

  • Avoiding meeting you or canceling plans at the last minute

  • Using social media less, deleting old pictures, and unfriending people

  • Frequent sick leave from work

Effects of abuse on the victim:

  • Self-doubt and low self-esteem

  • Becomes depressed

  • Feeling ashamed

  • Trust issues

  • Panic attacks

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Withdrawing emotionally

  • Making excuses for the abuser

  • Difficulty forming healthy relationships

  • Embarrassment about their relationship

What Should Sara Do?

Mia's partner Jack is becoming increasingly abusive.

One day Sara arrived at Mia's house with a surprise birthday gift, but she was taken aback to see the warning signs of abuse present in Mia's relationship.

a girl sitting on the couch holding another girl

What should Sara do after noticing the warning signs?

A. Encourage Mia to keep quiet and try to work things out with her partner.

B. Validate Mia's feelings and offer support, such as providing resources for seeking help.

C. Ignore the situation and hope that it will resolve on its own.

D. Confront Mia's partner Jack directly and demand that he stops his abusive behaviour.


Which option is an appropriate action for Sara to take to help Mia escape her abusive relationship?

How to Help Someone Leave an Abusive Relationship

Woman saying 'I am here for you'

Help your loved on create an exit plan that safely allows them to leave an abusive relationship.

Work onthe plan with the help of a domestic violence agency if you can get in touch with one. Make sure the plan includes:

  • Identifying and locating a safe place to stay

  • A packed bag with clothing and documents in a safe place

  • A financial plan for when they leave

  • Documenting any incidents of abuse

  • Changing passwords to email, social media, etc.

  • Sharing the plan with trusted friends, family or coworkers a safety plan

  • Consulting with a lawyer or domestic violence advocate about taking legal action

two female friends-are-sitting-chatting-couch drinking coffee

What else might you need to consider?

  1. Safety: Develop the safety plan based on their level of danger.

  2. Support: Let them know it's not their fault and offer emotional support.

  3. Confidentiality: Respect their privacy and don't share any information without permission.

  4. Empowerment: Encourage decision-making and support their choices.

  5. Resources: Know available hotlines, shelters, legal aid, and counselling.

  6. Boundaries: Respect their boundaries and don't pressure them to leave.

  7. Self-care: Take care of your own needs, as support can be challenging.


What it is the most important factor to consider when creating an exit plan for a loved one in an abusive relationship?

Take Action

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Use the checklist below to help your loved one safely escape an abusive relationship.


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