Did you know that domestic abuse cuts across all socio-economic lines? Are you trapped in an abusive situation with your partner? Domestic abuse can be mental, physical, verbal and emotional. Here are a few red flags to watch for.

1. Jealous, possessive, suspicious. Abusers are into control. They want to know where you are every minute of the day, who you talk to, who you text, who you call. They may monitor your phone conversations and demand to see messages on your cell phone and check the mileage on your car.

2. Isolation. Abusers will try to separate you from friends and family and may try to discourage you from seeking professional help. They will cut you off from emotional support, and do not want you to have a “trusted confidante.”

3. Cruelty to animals and children. Abusers will punish both children and household pets severely for any infraction of rules. It’s damaging for children to witness abuse or to be the target of abuse. If this is happening in your household, seek help immediately.

5. Can’t stand criticism. Abusers have the “it’s-my-way-or-the highway” attitude. They have poor communication skills and disagreements escalate into violent arguments. It is impossible to have a rational discussion with them.

6. Unrealistic expectations. An abuser will expect his partner to be all things to him and to do everything perfectly. He will expect you to be attuned to his every need and to “read his mind.” Interestingly, he will be oblivious to your needs and desires. It is all about him.

7. Playful use of force. Abusers don’t understand boundaries and often believe that slapping, tickling, pushing are appropriate. They also make sexual demands on their partners with no regard for their feelings.

8. Blaming others. An abuser is “always right.” He lives in a black and white world and feels that others judge him harshly and unfairly.

If you recognize any of these signs, please seek help from a therapist or a domestic violence support group. These behaviors do not “get better” on their own. Every study shows that abuse escalates. The time to take action is now. Dr. Mary Kennedy is a licensed psychologist in private practice on the east coast and is a mystery novelist

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