Shattered mirror on the ground
(C) Love Matters | Rita Lino

Harassment at home

Abuse comes in many forms – physical, emotional, or sexual. Abusive relationships can be hard to recognise.

Sometimes people stay in abusive relationships for years without realising they’re trapped in one.

Every relationship is different of course, but here’s a typical case:

James and Anne have been in a relationship for five years. Since she’s been in the relationship, Anne has been gradually retreating from a lot of social engagements – she’s stopped spending time with friends and family and devotes all her attention to James.

James is overly possessive of Anne and gets jealous if she spends time with anyone else. Anne hates being questioned and finds it easier to be around James rather than face his tirade at the end of the day.

James controls every aspect of Anne’s life. She finds it difficult to break away from the relationship because James threatens to harm her or himself. After many years of harassment, Anne realises that she’s caught in an abusive relationship.

Read another personal story about abusive relationships here.

Are you in an abusive relationship?

You’re in an abusive relationship if:

  • Your partner hurts you physically – like slapping, pulling hair, punching, kicking, throwing things at you.
  • Your partner forces you to have sex (that’s rape, even if you’re in a relationship or marriage).
  • Your partner threatens to kill or hurt you or himself/herself.
  • Your partner hurts or threatens your children.

If any of these are true for you, you should think about leaving your partner as soon as you can. These are serious and can put you and/or your children in immediate danger.

If you are in an abusive relationship

First you need to acknowledge that you don’t deserve to be abused. Feeling respected and trusted is an essential part of being in a loving and equal relationship.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s normal to have trouble accepting that you’re being abused. But if you feel the signs of abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional), it’s time to acknowledge it and get help.

You may have distanced yourself from your friends and family. This is what usually happens – either we do it ourselves or our partner does it for us. The wisest thing to do is get back in touch with them. Start out by making contact safely and securely with someone you trust, someone you think will listen. Send them an email or have a phone conversation (safe and secure from your partner) to explain your situation.

Share details of your troubled relationship with them. Don’t be ashamed to tell them what’s happened and how you’re feeling. Discuss what you’ve been thinking, be it giving up the relationship or working to improve it. Give your reasons and listen to their point of view. Ask how they can help, and discuss the next steps you could take.

If you don’t trust anyone in your circle of friends and family to help you out or empathise with you, you can turn to counsellors or helplines that offer advice over the phone.

If you want to stay in the relationship

No one is perfect – we are all growing and learning and trying the best we can. Relationships all have their ups and downs and both partners need to work on keeping the relationship healthy. If you notice abuse in your relationship, you can work with your partner – or maybe with a counsellor – to help change harmful behaviour patterns. As long as you and your partner maintain good communication and a willingness to make things better, there is a possibility of creating a stronger relationship.

But set yourself a limit. Be realistic about your goals and what needs to change in the relationship. Try to set a timeline for yourself so that you don’t get stuck in an unhealthy relationship, like ‘If my partner is still humiliating me in front of my friends in three months, then I’ll leave.’

It’s only human to want to try to make things work and sometimes people can change – but sometimes they can’t.

Related: Why Do People Stay In Abusive Relationships?

Why people stay in abusive relationships

Victims of abusive relationships often stay with their abusive partner.

There are many different reasons you might be doing this. The most common reason is that you still love your abusive partner. It could also be that you suffer from low self-esteem. You might feel uncomfortable breaking the familiar pattern of your life, despite the abuse.

You might also fear the consequences of leaving the relationship – what people might say about you or your family. Maybe you grew up in an abusive environment, so your own abusive relationship feels normal. The people around you may see abuse as a normal part of life, even though abuse is never ‘normal’ or acceptable.

Or you may want to stay with your partner for the sake of your children.

did you find this useful?

Tell us what you think

Recent Comments (15)

  1. Hi,I have been traped in an
    Hi,I have been traped in an abusive relationship & I dnt knw what to do to get out of boyfriend treats me really bad.he has forced me to stop talking to almost all my friends.he cheated on me n humiliated me infront of that woman.I went silent on him determined to move on but he kept calling & texting but I never replyed.thingking it was over he went ahead to calling my mom lying to her that I owe him something while I owed him nothing just to get me to talk to him.he apologyzed & to avoid issues especially with parents I forgave him.later he went ahead to lie to evryone blackmailing me to move in with him.After moving in to his house he has been controling evrything I do like pple I should talk to through my phone etc.when I tell him I want to leave he threatens to hurt me & make me regret from the things he has done in the past I know he can do anything to mess my life.he says he loves me so much & that he will never let me go but he keeps hurting me.please help me.What do I do cos am streased up.

    1. Dear Thiongo’o,

      Dear Thiongo’o,
      1. Plan, plan, plan.
      Making the final move is very difficult, and this is one of the reasons many people never do it.
      It very much depends on your individual situation. Plan which day is the best to leave – it could be when your partner is away on a business trip or is going to be out all evening with friends. Find a good time to make the exit.
      It might even be a good idea to practice or rehearse leaving before you actually do it.
      If you have children, explain them what you’re planning and gain their confidence. This in itself is a long-term conversation you ought to have been having with your children. If you are planning to take them along, think about where you all will stay. It is easier to house one guest but more than one can be difficult for anyone.
      Think of school schedules and how your kids will get back to normal life as far as possible.
      If you are not taking your kids along, because you think it’s better for them and you, you need to take a long time to talk to them about it. You also need to plan how they will be taken care of.
      As you can see, it’s very hard to do this all on your own. That’s exactly why many people stay in abusive relationships.
      2. Call in someone you trust to help.
      You need someone to back you up in case something fails. Lay out the plan in front of them. This could be your neighbour, or a trusted colleague, or an old friend or relative you’re still in touch with.
      3. Find a safe hiding place.
      Don’t leave any clues for your partner to come and find you. If you are working, you need to consider whether the place you work is a safe place or not. Will your partner go there to try to find you? You may need to take some time off or leave your job depending on your safety.
      4. Pull together some money if you can. Look at what savings you have. How many days, weeks or months can you survive with it? If you don’t have any access to money, it’s time to ask for help. Perhaps you could borrow from a friend who understands your situation and won’t add pressure to your already tense life.
      5. Take your time to recover.
      Break the habit of being abused. Get back into a normal life and be around people who don’t have an abusive past. You can reach out to counselling centres and helplines to seek help too.
      6. Begin to consider a divorce, if you are ready.
      Seek legal assistance, find out what you need to file for a divorce, and see what your options are. There are many organizations and shelters offering services free of charge or at low cost to people who have been abused.

  2. That is what av been going
    That is what av been going throw for 14yrs

    1. Hi Rika,

      Hi Rika,

      Have yo though about leaving that relationship?

      1. Thank you for your…

        Thank you for your contribution Edward.

  3. Hi,have been married for…
    Hi,have been married for five years now,have one child,my hubby beats me,call me a prostitute en always accuses me of dating other men.every time I went out he abuse me a lot saying I was sleeping with other men,he go to an extend of putting fingers to my private part.Every time you ask anything from he complains en call you names,please help am so stressed

  4. Thanks this will me the more
    Thanks this will me the more

    1. You are very welcome Macklie…
      You are very welcome Macklie. We wish you well.

  5. Is there abuse that one…
    Is there abuse that one should kinda tolerate like its not extreme like physical violence maybe an occasional abusive language when they are drunk? I think if you keep walking out you may never settle down. Just my though I stand to be corrected.

    1. Hi Caroline, nobody deserves…

      Hi Caroline, nobody deserves any form of abuse in a relationship and for this reason no form however mild, should be accepted in a relationship. It is important to raise this with your partner but more importantly, one needs to think about whether this is something they want to accept especially in a long term relationship. Check out the following article for more information;-

  6. my parents have been married…
    my parents have been married for over 25 years and all my life time I have known my father he treats our mum harshly keeps on beating even in front of us everyone is against him doing that and whenever mum tries to leave she still finds herself coming n that’s makes him treat her worse each time n uses all the dirty words even in our presence this made me hate marriage and vowed to be a single mum rather go thru hel as mum has passed n still passing thru

  7. Hi Yvonne, thank you for…

    Hi Yvonne, thank you for getting in touch with us and we are so sorry and your family have gone through a hard time because of how your father has abused your mum. It is quite understandable that you do not ever want to get into marriage, especially after everything you have witnessed. It is important to note though that, not all relationships like that. Relationships take work. However, not all relationship are the same. What makes one person happy could make another unhappy. Here we talk about how to keep your relationship alive, healthy, and happy. Click here to find out more:

    We hope the information above helps and can allow you understand what it takes to make a happy relationship and also help you see what exactly went wrong and the misunderstandings that arose due to your parents relationship. Please let us know what you think and have a wonderful week ahed! Stay safe!

LoveMatters Africa

Blush-free facts and stories about love, sex, and relationships