The ‘Red Flags’: Understanding Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is not just physical abuse. It can range from psychological to financial abuse. (Photo courtesy of

Caroline Campbell
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“I love him. I just made him upset, it was my fault,” she said, as she iced her face. He had hit her again.

“She is just being difficult and stupid,” he said, as he picked his self-esteem back up. She had told him he was worthless again.

Each and everyday people are affected by domestic violence. It can take the form of sexual, physical, emotional or physiological abuse. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence is “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.”

Domestic violence can affect anyone regardless of gender, race or age. Some do not directly see the warning signs or the implications that is happening to them—or just simply ignore them.

So the questions become, what are the warning signs and why do people stay even if they see them?

Domestic violence is not just physical abuse. It can range from psychological to financial abuse. (Photo courtesy of
Domestic violence is not just physical abuse. It can range from psychological to financial abuse. (Photo courtesy of

Domestic violence can look different in every relationship. The ‘red flags’ can vary from:

  •   Embarrassing or putting you down
  • Controlling who you see, where you go or what you do
  • Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing your friends or family
  • Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses
  • Preventing you from making your own decisions
  • Preventing you from working or attending school
  • Blaming you for the abuse or acting like it’s not really happening
  • Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets
  • Intimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons
  • Shoving, slapping, choking or hitting you
  • Threatening to commit suicide because of something you’ve done
  • Threatening to hurt or kill you
  • Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
  • Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Preventing you from using birth control or pressuring you to become pregnant when you’re not ready ( some people these ‘red flags’ may seem like automatic deal breakers, but for those in a domestically violent relationship getting out of the relationship is not just an action, but a process. They can stay for various reasons from commitment to relationship, low self-esteem, denial or a hope for change.

    “The person being abused is focused on the positive and waiting for the next positive. There’s a psychological effect like gambling: the moments of tenderness and intimacy are unpredictable, but they are so intense and fulfilling that the victim winds up staying in the hopes that a moment like that will happen again,” said Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School. For those who are facing a domestic violent relationship—the first step begins with them. For those who know someone facing domestic violence the best thing to do is to support them and empower them with available resources of help.

    If you are in an abusive relationship and seeking support please contact the Center for Counseling and Human Development at 717-871-7821. Students can also make an appointment with a YWCA Sexual Assault Counselor, located in the Montour House, at 717-871-4141. For more information about domestic violence and programs offered at Millersville University please visit: