From apps to blogs, women are finding innovative ways to unite against domestic violence
"An abuser doesn't announce that he's abusive on the first date," she says. "They're charming, loving, supportive, until the relationship starts to change." She said she admonishes young women, especially when they start dating, to watch for warning signs. Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Signs of abuse usually start with a partner eroding a woman's self-esteem, Cacciatore says. She said women should be wary of belittlement and control issues. "If they get jealous, start to put you down, accuse you of cheating for no reason, these are red flags. Love is blind and hits us hard — have the wherewithal to watch for the signs."
Lawrence, whose co-worker helped her through the process of leaving her abusive relationship, says women should trust their guts.
"There are signals in your body that scream out sometimes; sometimes you'll get a physical stomach ache, feel confused or find yourself wondering why your partner would say cutting things — but then you justify it," Lawrence said. "It's easy to tell yourself to be polite and not be judgmental — trust yourself and get out when red flags appear."
Her partner didn't start hitting her for seven years, but the psychological abuse and belittlement began much sooner, says Lawrence. "Abusive people are loving and caring and manipulative and they love you, and you want to love them," says Lawrence. "Eventually you can't recognize how far is too far," she says, and it's not as easy as telling your best friend — eventually, she says, she didn't have any friends.
Since Lawrence left her abusive relationship with the help of her co-worker, she has paid it forward. Years later she saw the signals in another woman at work, and Lawrence gave out her phone number with instructions to call any time she wanted to talk. Eventually, the woman did.
"It's that little trigger to stay strong, you need someone to tell you that it's going to be hard but it gets better. You get your life back, but you literally have to rebuild."
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