How to Recognize the Signs of Domestic Abuse

By Elizabeth A. Allen
You've probably heard the alarming statistics about domestic abuse. As many as 4 million women nationwide may be abused by their partners each year, according to the Department of Justice.

Consider the consequences of these statistics. Domestic abuse cuts across differences in age, race and class. You probably know a co-worker, friend or relative who is affected. Domestic violence is an underreported crime frequently kept quiet by its victims. And while most domestic violence is against women, men can be victims too. Learn to recognize the signs.

A victim of domestic abuse …

  • May be injured, yet not tell the full story. A victim of domestic abuse may or may not have bruises, burns or scars or may try to hide these signs.
  • May have disruptions to her normal schedule. After a severe beating, for example, an abuse victim may take sick time or arrive late to appointments.
  • May avoid conflict. Disagreements at work may remind an abuse victim of fights at home; that person may go out of his or her way to avoid conflict.
  • May show changes in personality when around his or her partner.An outgoing person may withdraw and become nervous when around an abusive partner.

Domestic violence harms not only the woman who is abused, but her children as well.

If you know an adult or child who is affected by domestic abuse, you can:

  • Reach out. A person who lives with domestic abuse often feels isolated and frightened. Listening to her and providing sympathy will help her feel less alone.
  • Ask about it. Though domestic violence may be a taboo subject, asking a sympathetic question or two, then giving a few days for a person to answer, lets her know you care.
  • Tell the person that help is always available. There are hotlines, Web sites, shelters and many other local and national resources available to help people affected by domestic violence. Though a person may be too scared to make a phone call to a hotline immediately, that information could later save her life.

For more information about domestic violence, its warning signs, effects and prevention, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at or call 800-799-7233.

Elizabeth A. Allen is a former editorial assistant for

©, used with permission.

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