In an abusive relationship, a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors are used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner, see the Power & Control Wheel (PDF). An abusive relationship means more than being hit by the person who claims to love or care about you.
Abusive relationships rarely start with physical violence. Typically, the abuse incorporates numerous methods of one person exerting power and control over another. Abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or physical and can include humiliation, threats, isolation, and intimidation. Abuse tends to escalate over time. When someone uses abuse and violence against a partner, it is always part of a larger pattern to try to control him/her.
Signs of abuse can be difficult to recognize, especially within a relationship. Friends, family members, and colleagues may often be the first to notice signs of a controlling and abusive relationship. These are signs or “red flags” to assist in identifying whether you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and can also help identify a potentially abusive person.