Everyone knows that physically harming another person is not OK, but physical attacks aren’t the only form of domestic violence and dating abuse out there. Abusers might even misuse healthy relationship things — like hand-holding or checking in — and turn them into abuse. This can lead to even worse forms of abuse, so it’s important to know the signs NOW.
Kristen Herman is on the National Youth Advisory Board (NYAB) and serves as the Community Outreach and Advocacy Manager on the (NYAB) Executive Committee, which is part of LoveIsRespect.org. I spoke to her about five common signs of dating abuse that people might not realize are as serious as they are.
“Wait,” you might be saying, “you mean when I hold hands with my bf or gf, it’s abuse?!” Not in itself, no. Hand-holding can be a very enjoyable pastime. But a sign of abuse would be if a partner uses hand-holding to hurt or control you.
“If you’re holding hands with your partner and they’re not liking what you’re saying or they want you to do a certain thing, they can squeeze your hand or pinch it or use it in a certain way,” Kristen said. It’s subtle enough people around you probably won’t notice.
+ Extreme Jealousy
A partner who is very jealous is also a bad sign. “Your partner might say you can’t wear certain things, you can’t speak to certain people, or to people of the opposite sex or same sex,” Kristen said. “They might say, ‘You can’t go out without me’ because they assume they’re going to be cheated on.” A partner who does this might make it seem they’re acting this way because they love you and care about you, but it’s really about control.
+ Passwords & Social Media
If your partner steals your password to break into your stuff, that shows a total lack of respect. Just as a rule of thumb, never give out a password to a partner — they could use this as an opportunity to spy on you and see what you’re up to, which is also a sign of abuse.
Phones can potentially make this even easier. “A lot of people have all their social apps on their phone,” Kristen said. “Once you get on their phone, you don’t have to put a password in.” It’s also YOUR phone, so no one should be going through it at all unless they have your permission.
+ Checking in Too Much
If you haven’t heard from your bf or gf and you send them a text to make sure they’re all right, that’s you being considerate. But there can be a point where “checking in” can actually become possessive and unhealthy.
“They want to know where you are all the time,” she said. “They say, ‘Why aren’t you answering my texts? Why aren’t you responding to my phone calls?’ If you ever feel defensive, like, ‘Oh, I was just in the bathroom’ or ‘I didn’t have my phone on me,’ it’s probably too much checking in.”
This is not the same thing as you and your partner texting back and forth a lot because you’re having a fun conversation. In abusive situations, it’s the one person blowing up the other’s phone, wanting to keep super-close tabs on them.
Sometimes when you’re in a new relationship, you’re attached at the hip to the other person for a while because it’s exciting and loving. “To a certain extent, that’s normal,” she said. But if your partner purposefully keeps you away from other people and wants you all to themselves, never mind what you say, that’s different. “The abuser will pull [their victim] away from everyone, like friends and family. It’s something people on the outside can really pick up on. That’s what we refer to as isolation.”
If you’re holding hands with your partner, texting back and forth with them in fun conversations, and hanging out a fair amount because you enjoy them, that’s cool. If your partner hurts your hand while holding it, wants to know where you are every second, and tries to keep you away from friends and family, that’s not OK.
If you’ve noticed one or more of these signs in your relationship, there is help available. Love Is Respect has more information on dating abuse and is always there if you need to reach out to someone. Text “loveis” to 22522 or call them at 1-866-331-9474.
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