How to spot the signs of an abusive relationship

Estimated read time 6 min read

Common signs of abuse are often revealed through various methods of control, says SOFIA House executive director Christa Baron.

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While rates of intimate partner violence in Saskatchewan remain the highest in the country, the physical signs of abuse aren’t the only clues for which people should be on the lookout.

Advocates say micro aggressions such as a partner constantly asking for your location or preventing you from seeing friends and family can be major indicators that something more serious is going on behind closed doors.

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A common sign of abuse reveals itself through various methods of control, says SOFIA House executive director Christa Baron.

“Some areas that people maybe don’t think of right off the hop are things like financial control,” Baron said in an interview Tuesday. “Limiting access to where finances are stored and what money is being spent on and not having the independence to make financial decisions.”

Needing to know where a partner is at all times and attaching shame or blame to it are more subtle, under-the-radar signs, Baron added.

Amber Stewart, executive director of the Battlefords and Area Sexual Assault Centre (BASAC), said it isn’t healthy for a partner to try to take things away.

“If you enter a new relationship and your partner doesn’t want you hanging out with your friends or they don’t like your friends or every time you hang out with your friends they are sad because they’re lonely and miss you — those are red flags,” Stewart said in an interview Tuesday.

Stewart added that subtle actions can appear harmless, coming from a place of love. However, they are more menacing than they seem, having potential to lead to more threatening situations.

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) website says some of the warning signs include having few close friends, having to ask permission from your partner to meet with other people, and referring to a partner’s temper but not talking about the extent of the abuse.

Symptoms of depression and loss of interest in daily activities can also be indicators.

Although abundant resources are available to those going through intimate partner violence, getting help with emotional or psychological abuse from a partner can sometimes be tricky, especially in small cities and rural areas.

“I think historically we have viewed interpersonal violence as a more taboo subject, so education and awareness may just not be an area of strength in some communities,” said Baron. “There are some layers and complexities around knowing what resources exist and if they have the capacity to help someone.”

The Provincial Association of Transition Housing and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS) website offers information on support groups and counselling services for people experiencing various levels of abuse, said Baron.

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While it may be difficult to talk to a friend about patterns you’re seeing in their relationship, Stewart said it’s important to speak up.

“We tend to not want to get involved or think it’s none of our business but, by having that mindset, we’re keeping this behaviour in the shadows,” said Stewart. “If you know somebody that you suspect is in an unhealthy situation, it’s important to speak up and say something to them and be a support.”

If you are experiencing domestic violence or are concerned about your safety, call 211 for information about safe shelters in your community or visit the PATHS website for agencies’ contact information.

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