In a particularly resonant scene (from the show – Big Little Liars), the family is having dinner. Perry starts joking around, and pretends to be a monster, lurching around the table. The kids, who are delighted, giggle and run away.
As viewers, we know that to Celeste, Perry can be an actual monster, but here he is being a fun and engaged father. That symbolism and duality reveals a frightening truth: Abusers are not shadowy monsters devoid of feeling or compassion ― they can be fathers and lovers and husbands; beautiful men and women living in beautiful neighborhoods with beautiful wives and husbands.
We don’t ever really know what domestic abuse looks like from the outside.
It’s impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some tell-tale signs and symptoms of domestic abuse. If you witness these warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.
People who are being abused may:
- Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
- Go along with everything their partner says and does
- Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
- Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
- Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
People who are being physically abused may:
- Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
- Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
- Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
People who are being isolated by their abuser may:
- Be restricted from seeing family and friends
- Rarely go out in public without their partner
- Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car
People who are being psychologically abused may:
- Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
- Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)
- Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal
Speak up if you suspect domestic abuse
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, or the person might not want to talk about it—you might be wrong, keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save his or her life.
Talk to the person in private and let him or her know that you’re concerned. Point out the things you’ve noticed that make you worried. Tell the person that you’re there, whenever he or she feels ready to talk. Reassure the person that you’ll keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let him or her know that you’ll help in any way you can.
Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.
Do’s and Don’ts
|Ask if something is wrong||Wait for him or her to come to you
|Judge or blame
|Listen and validate
|Pressure him or her
|Support his or her decisions
|Place conditions on your support