How to identify signs of domestic violence and abuse

Domestic-related assaults and homicides spiked in Philadelphia last year
Young woman doing a stop sign with her hand
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — About 13,000 calls concerning domestic violence were made to Philadelphia police in 2022, a vast rise from the year before.

Nearly 9% of the city’s 516 homicides last year were related to domestic violence. There were 43 domestic-related homicides in 2021 — about three times more than in 2020 and about 1 ½ times more than in 2019.

Domestic-related assaults and homicides have climbed not just in Philadelphia but across the country, sounding the alarm for advocates against domestic violence.

The One Love Foundation — named after Yeardley Love, a college student murdered in 2010 by her ex-boyfriend — teaches people the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Melanie Sperling, One Love director of partner success, said a person in a healthy relationship should feel confident that their partner won’t do something to hurt or ruin the relationship.

“The biggest thing to keep an eye out for is when someone does something that makes you have a gut reaction that something is off,” she said. “If you feel you can’t approach them, or if you approach them and they are not receptive to what you are saying, then I think that is a sign that you should be reflecting on if this is the relationship you want to be in.”

One should be able to be truthful and candid with their partner without fearing how they will respond, she said.

“Don’t just brush it off and say, ‘Oh, I am being sensitive. Oh, they’ve had a stressful day,’” said Sperling. “Tell them, ‘That just made me really uncomfortable with what you just did.’ And see what their reaction is. Are they belittling you or guilting you and saying, ‘Oh, you are just being your old sensitive self?’”

Katie Young-Wildes, spokesperson for the Philadelphia-based Women Against Abuse nonprofit, noted there is a difference between an unhealthy relationship — a scenario where two people just aren’t suited for one another — and an abusive one.

An abusive relationship often manifests as an imbalanced power dynamic — “one person gaining and keeping power and control over their partner.”

There are also other forms of abuse — sexual, financial, emotional. Most of the time, they start verbally.

“The person constantly putting you down, befitting you, making you feel inadequate,” Young-Wildes explained. “They blame you for their acts of violence. … We’ve seen instances of gaslighting, where someone is being abused and the perpetrator turns it around on them and makes them question, ‘Did that even happen? Is this all in my head?’”

Another warning sign of abuse is isolation. The abusive partner may refuse to let the victim see or hang out with other people, or they may get jealous easily.

Friends or loved ones witnessing an abusive relationship must be patient, Sterling advised. It’s going to take many conversations before someone considers leaving their relationship.

“The best thing you can do is not demonize their partner,” she added.

Anyone going through violence by a partner, or anyone who is unsure if they are experiencing signs of abuse, can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-SAFE.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images