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Life After Abuse: Getting Free

Life After Abuse is a series of articles discussing the implications of abuse for victims and survivors. This article discusses some of the initial challenges of leaving an abusive relationship. It also provides a check-list of warning signs of an abusive relationship.

     Abusive relationships are difficult to distinguish from other relationships at a casual glance. This is because the abuse predominantly happens in secret. The warning signs of an abusive relationship, if you are not witnessing the abuse as it is happening, are subtle. Surviving (like many other websites focused upon assisting victims and survivors of abuse) gives a list of warning signs on their website. The warning signs of abuse are somewhat different when examining child abuse compared to other forms of abuse. There are some behaviors that are the same across most forms of abusive relationships.

General Warning Signs of Abuse


  • Withdrawal from relationships that previously important to them.

  • Becomes overly focused upon pleasing others or passive.

  • Abandons activities that previously were important to them.
  • Is always watchful or fearful of recrimination.
  • Reports a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde like difference in the abuser’s behavior between public and private settings.


  • Exhibits control over victim’s access to other people or needed resources. (In the case of child abuse, this would be excessive control.)
  • Blames the victim for their anger or ‘bad mood’ when there is no logical reason.
  • Excessively checks up on the victim’s whereabouts and who they’re with.
  • Uses physical intimidation to make the victim behave a certain way.

     The act of leaving an abuser is possibly one of the most difficult that can be taken by a victim. It is especially difficult if the abusive relationship has been going on for a long time. Part of the difficulty is a fear that is often unexpected, a fear of the unknown. In the case of a long established abusive relationship, the victim may fear that the relationship is safer then something they could possibly encounter upon leaving. Overcoming this fear is not easy and it is one of the reasons why many people who leave abusive relationships return to the relationship.

     It is highly challenging to put aside the various painful things that an abuser has forced their victim to accept about themselves. It makes the long road of recovery feel like it is an endless path made of broken glass up a steep hill on bare feet. This, however, is one of the most important things that survivors must accomplish in order to prevent themselves from being victimized again by their abuser. In some cases, the process of reprogramming their minds is a blessedly simple affair and the survivor can transition smoothly into life after abuse. For others, it is a harrowing experience that could be described as equally severe and painful as the abuse.

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