Is This Abuse?

sexual abuse

Abusive Relationships

While the signs of abuse may be apparent to some of us, many people who are being abused don’t recognize them. They may not see themselves as a victim.

By: HAVEN, 24 hour Crisis Support Group

Acts of domestic violence and sexual assault occur in every culture, every economic class and every age group. These acts know no boundaries, and they very well may be happening to someone you know or even yourself.

While the signs of abuse may be apparent to some of us, many people who are being abused don’t recognize them. They may not see themselves as a victim. Or they may think abuse is strictly a physical thing, like hitting or punching. What they may not realize is that abuse can happen in other ways, including psychological, emotional and sexual abuse. While there is no one symptom that says, “Yes, this is abuse,” there are some common themes to look for.

Is This Domestic Violence?

By definition, domestic violence is a pattern of learned behavior where one person uses assaultive and controlling behaviors against another (an intimate partner) to maintain power and control.

Unfortunately, there isn’t just one textbook example of domestic violence. It can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and stalking; and it can occur in any kind of relationship: married, dating or same sex. It can also take many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while.

If you think you are being abused, ask yourself the following questions:

Are you ever afraid of your partner?

Does your partner tell you what to do and who to see?

Has your partner ever threatened to harm you?

Has your partner ever pushed or hit you, thrown things at you, or forced you to have sex?

Do you feel frightened, hurt, confused, disappointed, angry, ashamed or hopeless as a result of your relationship?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be in a dangerous situation.

Please seek help by calling the HAVEN 24-Hour Crisis and Support Line at (248) 334-1274 or the toll-free at (877) 922-1274.

Is this Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a form of abuse and is defined as any nonconsensual sexual contact. These acts may include coercion (being persuaded or manipulated into having sex) or acquaintance rape (being forced to have sex by someone known or familiar).

If you suspect a friend or family member has been sexually assaulted, there are signs to look for. While there is no standard response, victims may experience a few, none or all of the following:

SHOCK AND NUMBNESS: Feelings of lightheadedness, confusion, being easily overwhelmed, or not knowing how to feel or what to do.

LOSS OF CONTROL: Feeling like their whole life has been turned upside down and that they will never have control of their life again.

FEAR: Fear that the rapist may return; fear for general physical safety; fear of being alone; fear of other people or situations that may remind the victims of the assault.

GUILT AND SELF-BLAME: Feeling like they could have or should have done something to avoid or prevent the assault; doubts regarding their ability to make judgments.

ISOLATION: Feeling that this experience has set them apart from other people; feeling that other people can tell they have been sexually assaulted just by looking at them; not wanting to burden other people with their experience.

VULNERABILITY, DISTRUST: Feeling that they are at the mercy of their own emotions or the actions of others; not knowing who to trust or how to trust themselves; feelings of suspicion and caution.

SEXUAL FEARS: Feeling that they do not want to have sexual relations; wondering whether they will ever want or enjoy sexual relationships again; fears that being sexually intimate may remind them of the assault.

ANGER: Feeling angry at the assailant. Victims might find themselves thinking about retaliation. They may be angry at the world since they no longer feel safe. If they are religious, they may feel angry that their faith did not prevent this from happening.


Many rape victims experience what is referred to as Rape-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Rape Trauma Syndrome. The four major symptoms of this are:

1. Re-experiencing the trauma: Rape victims may experience recurrent nightmares or flashbacks about the rape or may have an inability to stop remembering the rape.

2. Social Withdrawal: This symptom has been called “psychic numbing” and involves not experiencing feelings of any kind.

3. Avoidance behaviors and actions: Victims may desire to avoid any feelings or thoughts that might recall to mind events about the rape.

4. Increased Physiological Arousal Characteristics: This symptom can be marked by an exaggerated startle response, hypervigilance, sleep disorders or difficulty concentrating.

If you think someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please seek help by calling the HAVEN 24-Hour Crisis and Support Line at (248) 334-1274 or toll-free at (877) 922-1274.

About HAVEN:
HAVEN was founded in 1975 as the first and only sexual assault counseling center in Oakland County. In 1977, HAVEN broadened its services to include domestic violence counseling. Today, all of the programs at HAVEN provide specialized, comprehensive services in the areas of domestic violence and sexual assault. By serving the community through a series of innovative intervention, treatment, prevention and education programs, HAVEN can help individuals and families through all stages of crisis and help work toward our goal of eliminating domestic violence and sexual assault. For more information, please visit: HAVEN

Photo: kristaaal