Extricating oneself from an abusive relationship can be exacting, harrowing or even dangerous. So how do so many people get themselves into these relationships in the first place? Can’t they read the writing on the wall?

“No, they can’t see the signs. Literally,” says Yvonne Wakefield of The Warrior Project, an online portal of information and resources for victims of domestic abuse.

“At the beginning of a relationship, our neurochemistry is altered by hormones that make it very difficult for us to see the signs.

“That, together with the fact that many of the signs are hidden by manipulation, means that victims are usually in very deep – often after marriage and/or children – before they start to realise that their situation is unhealthy,” she says.

But research shows that there are often one or a few red flags, visible from early on, that can indicate controlling or abusive tendencies which will only properly surface later.

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These include:

  • Very quick progression of a new relationship
  • Jealousy (wants you all to himself)
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Blaming of others (sees himself as a victim)
  • Resentfulness
  • Entitlement (deserving of special treatment)
  • Controlling, often disguised as concern for your safety
  • Attempts to restrict the exercise of very ordinary adult rights or freedoms
  • Belief of superiority over others
  • Deception and lying, often innocuously
  • Disrespect of boundaries
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Cruelty or disrespect to other people or animals
  • Accusing of others being unfaithful
  • A history of abuse (which is denied)
  • Use of force during arguments
  • Use of manipulation, often suggesting that your memory of an event is incorrect
  • Disregard for boundaries around sex
  • Sabotaging of efforts to use birth control

Is domestic violence always violent?

“Many of these traits are flattering when they first happen, like when someone is jealous or possessive, is upset when you don’t immediately answer calls or messages, or wants to move in together quickly. Many controlling bahaviours are masked as being for our own sake or our safety, but the result can be that they restrict our freedom and isolate us from family and friends,” says Wakefield.

Awareness of these red flags, conscious observance of worrying behaviours and early extrication can prevent years of pain and trauma.

For more information, visit www.thewarriorproject.org.za

SAPS Emergency Services 10111
Toll-free Crime Stop number 086 00 10111
GBV Command Centre Contact the 24-hour Gender Based Violence Command Centre toll-free number 0800 428 428 to report abuse
STOP Gender Violence Helpline Tel: 0800 150 150/ *120*7867#
South African Police Service Report all cases of rape, sexual assault or any form of violence to a local police station or call the toll-free Crime Stop number: 086 00 10111
Legal Aid South Africa Call the toll-free Legal Aid Advice Line 0800110 110 for free legal aid if you cannot afford one
Commission for Gender Equality Report Gender Discrimination and Abuse: 0800 007 709
South African Human Rights Commission Call 011 877 3600 to lodge a complaint about human rights violations.
Domestic violence Helpline Stop Women Abuse: 0800 150 150
AIDS Helpline 0800 012 322
The Warrior Project FREE legal helpline for victims of domestic abuse: 0860 333 353
People Opposed to Woman Abuse(Powa) http://www.powa.co.za, Tel: 011 642 4345
Child Welfare South Africa http://childwelfaresa.org.za/, Tel: 074 080 8315
Childline South Africa http://www.childlinesa.org.za/, Tel: 0800 055 555
Families South Africa (Famsa) http://www.famsaorg.mzansiitsolutions.co.za/, Tel: 011 975 7106/7
Tears Foundation http://www.tears.co.za/, Free SMS helpline: *134*7355#, Tel: 010 590 5920
The Trauma Centre http://www.trauma.org.za/, Tel: 021 465 7373
Thuthuzela Care Centres http://isssasa.org.za/