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Recognising the warning signs that someone is being abused

It is a sad fact that statistically South African women have more to fear from people they know than from strangers. It’s impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some sure signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you witness these warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.

People who are being abused may often seem afraid or anxious to please their partner. They tend to go along with everything their partner says and does. They anxiously often check in with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing. The partner frequently makes harassing phone calls. Some even talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.

The ongoing stress experienced by victims of domestic violence can lead to “non-injury” medical complaints that are not directly caused by the abuse experienced by the victim. These symptoms are caused by a psychological reaction to abuse and may also present in cases of psychological violence where the perpetrator never lays a finger on the victim. They are the result of the constant stress and tension of being in an abusive relationship.

Some typical “non-injury” medical complaints experienced by victims of domestic abuse include: Headaches, Asthma, Gastrointestinal symptoms, Insomnia or restless sleep, Genital soreness, Pelvic pain, Back pain, Choking sensations, Palpitations, Neck pain and more.

Warning signs of physical violence.

People who are being physically abused may have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”. They tend to miss work, school, or social occasions frequently without explanation. The abused person may dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)

Warning signs of isolation.

People who are being isolated by their abuser may be restricted from seeing family and friends. They rarely go out in public without their partner and often have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.

The psychological warning signs of abuse.

People who are being abused have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident. They show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn) with signs of depression, anxiety or become suicidal. The “Battered women syndrome”, much like post-traumatic stress disorder may be present. Victims can also start abusing substances like prescription medication, alcohol or drugs.

If there is any reason to suspect that someone is a victim of domestic violence, any social worker with Free State Care in Action can be contacted. Social workers are trained to provide guidance to the person reporting the violence. Victims can be assisted with counselling and guidance in order to receive protection from the abuser. The symptoms and consequences of domestic violence will be addressed through therapy and counselling to the victim and other family members.  Contact Free State Care in Action at 051-4446143 for more information.