Kasandra Perkins and about ten other women died at the hands of their partner on December 1, 2012 (4000 women killed by partners/year divided by 365 days/year = 10 – 11 dead women per day). Yet today, Internet news sources remember Kasandra Perkin’s boyfriend, the man who killed her before killing himself, and the jest of the commentary is, “We didn’t see this coming. He was such a great guy!” Typical.
Newsday reported “Friends of Perkins have said there was tension between the two that escalated after the birth of their daughter, now 3 months old, and a police source said the two argued about money.” Abuse escalates or begins after the abuser feels that the victim cannot separate from them. For example, after the birth of a baby.
Kasandra’s friends and family will undoubtedly look back over the past three months (at least) and say to themselves, “I should have noticed…” They will undoubtedly blame themselves for not seeing the truth, but it is not their fault that Kasandra is dead. It is her boyfriend’s fault. As the truth dawns on those who loved Kasandra, they may go through a personal hell of if only thoughts. Let’s keep them in our prayers.
Along with our feelings of sympathy, let’s do something else, too. Let’s get our heads out of the Internet news and gossip and focus on the people we love. Who among your group of friends could be on Kasandra’s path? Do you know the signs of abuse in your friends?
Signs Your Friend Could Be Abused
Coincidentally, also on Saturday, I asked my Facebook friends to brainstorm signs of abuse from the outside looking in. How might you know if your friend was being abused? They came up with very insightful tells, and I want to share them with you.
Keep in mind that these signs of abuse occur not only after beginning a new relationship, but also when a relationship moves to a different level. Pay attention to the signs very closely if your friend’s relationship just changed in some way: engagement, marriage, pregnancy/child, moving in together, or any other change that shows the relationship is becoming more serious.
Signs of Abuse in Your Friend’s Actions
- acts overly happy, suspiciously happy; you have a sense that they smile on the outside, cry on the inside (abuse victims can be very good actors)
- questions their sanity or behavior while asking for your advice
- asks partner how they feel about absolutely everything, can’t seem to make a decision without consulting their partner
- avoids eye contact, especially if you press your friend for “what’s wrong” or try to talk to them about your suspicions of abuse
- blames herself for partner’s behavior or makes excuses for them
- calls the police to the house but denies there was an issue; says s/he overreacted or denies the call was for domestic violence (police reports are public record… just sayin’)
- doesn’t have time to meet with you
- excuses the things their partner does/says
- explains partner’s possessive behavior, sees it as abnormal, begs you not to say anything to him
- tells you of the horrible relationships in partner’s past or how the partner has one or more “crazy” ex-es
- asks partner for money all of the time; rarely has cash or debit card to use
- “freaks out” or makes an ass of themselves in presence of partner and you, but you can’t figure out why
- begins using illegal substances or alcohol becomes a problem
- minimizes what goes on at home
- seems almost delusional, you think your friend could be making up problems where there are none (that you can see!)
- seems defensive, thinks you judge them, explains things that need no explanation
- seems to see their partner through rose-colored glasses, has unfounded optimism for the outcome of their last fight or for the relationship
Signs of Abuse in Your Friend’s Demeanor
- appears nervous or anxious, can’t relax; irratible or edgy
- can’t “find the right words” to explain what is wrong
- checks the time constantly, expected to be home at a certain time, constant texting/phone calls with partner when they’re apart
- reports to partner before making a move
- distant when you are able to communicate with them
- partner’s jokes cause your friend pain; pain can show as contempt, sudden tears but no crying, over-the-top laughter and then quick withdrawal from partner’s presence, or any combination of emotions (you know your friend’s “normal” behavior – their reaction will not be “normal”)
- loses interest in her hobbies or activities
- develops low self-esteem, depression
- sadness out of nowhere, sudden crying or anger
- says nothing is wrong when there obviously is something wrong
- your friend appears distraught or “off” but their partner appears vibrant and charming when arriving at your party
- shrinks when partner enters the room
- side conversations: partner speaks about how the children disappoint “them” and your friend apologizes on the side as if the children’s behavior is all their fault.
- adheres to very traditional sex roles (especially if that’s not what your friend wanted before the relationship)
- consoles and tends to sulking or angry partner instead of enjoying the party or going to the party
- defensive of any suspicious behaviors you point out
- gets nervous if partner drinks or uses other substances
- goes overboard to make abuser look good
- seems vulnerable, defeated
- stops taking care of their own mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs
- has visible bruising or marks or wears clothes that could hide bruises
- withdraws from friendship, no calls or visits, cuts off communication
- withdraws from social events and family gatherings
- friend hates their partner one day and wants to leave, then makes partner out to be a saint the next time you talk
Signs of Abuse in Your Friend from Work
- doesn’t attend company parties; avoids socializing with most people (especially the opposite sex)
- often appears upset at work, you can tell they’ve been crying when they exit the restroom
- spends much of the workday whispering into the phone
- partner shows up at work and friend reacts strangely
- work day interrupted by “family emergencies”
- becomes overly anxious about leaving work late, especially when it is a last minute decision by the boss to stay late
- quality of work isn’t as good as it used to be
- seems forgetful, distracted, as if she isn’t really at work
- takes more sick days from work
Signs of Abuse in Your Friend’s (Abusive) Partner
- “steals the show” when victim has chance to shine or on victim’s birthday, favorite holidays, anniversaries, etc.
- exhibits unfounded jealousy, paranoia
- makes comments that belittle your friend, lies about your friend, attempts to make your friend doubt themselves or says “No, dear, this is what happened…” and changes your friend’s story ever so slightly (or completely)
- makes openly derisive comments about your friend
- may talk as if s/he rescued your friend from their last job, last relationship, themselves … and your friend may incomprehensibly agree
- mentions your friend’s new substance abuse problem derisively but does not act in a compassionate, caring way – uses the addiction to blame your friend for most anything
- seems too good to be true
- comes on to you, will deny doing it
- plys your friend with drinks and purposefully pushes their buttons
- image is very important to them
- confides in you about “problems” with your friend that you just can’t imagine existing
Trust Your Gut If There Are Signs Your Friend Is Abused
After reading those lists, you may find the clues that your friend is being abused to be “circumstantial evidence”. Even if your friend shows marks from physical abuse, you cannot prove they are abused. Talk to a judge and I believe most of them would share your frustration. Your friend must realize they are abused for themselves and confide in you – you cannot make them tell you anything.
Sometimes, simply bringing domestic abuse out into the light will be enough to make a difference. Your friend, if they are being abused, may think that they are “crazy” and distrust their own perception. You broaching the subject of domestic abuse may be just what your friend needs to feel sane and safe enough to open up. When that happens, you can help them end the abuse.
Check here for more information on how to help an abuse victim.