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DASH’s early warning signs are meant to guide you in determining whether your relationship is healthy. In this series of articles, we will explore each warning sign in more depth so that you will have a better idea about what each sign means and if you need to address a problem in your relationship. Our second early warning sign of abuse is:
Insults you, calls you names
This may seem like an obvious warning sign. No one likes to be called names, even when it’s innocent teasing by friends. The increased awareness of bullying behavior has brought this warning sign more attention. The old rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” certainly isn’t true. Names, particularly if they are hurled at you by someone who claims to love you, can be terribly painful. If people you don’t really care about call you names, it may not be as upsetting. If that person is your boyfriend or girlfriend it becomes a whole different story. As in the first warning sign calling names is about control and humiliation.
We all have dealt with nicknames and insults, even among our friends. You might be a nerd, a jock, a popular and be proud about it. Having others call you names might roll right off you. You need to be able to tell the difference between a silly nickname and an abusive one. Any time your partner chooses to insult you, your appearance, your intelligence, your choices or opinions it’s emotional abuse. Yes, your partner can have his/her own opinions, but when they question your ideas to the point of insult or humiliation, it becomes emotional abuse.
It doesn’t matter if the verbal abuse takes place in front of others or not. An abusive partner will tell you that no one else will love you because you are fat, ugly, stupid – pick a word. Some partners may use the most disgusting references in order to crush your self esteem. There is no need to spell them out here; you can imagine what kinds of words they use. By insulting you he/she is making you more dependent. Many abusers will humiliate or embarrass their partners in public as a method of control to “prove” that only the abuser can love them. A victim of emotional abuse may start to blame themselves for the abuser’s behavior and come to believe what the abuser says. Constant criticism will compel the victim to “improve” him/herself. After all, if the person who loves you thinks you’re stupid then it must be true.
Remember, if the person you love is making you feel bad about yourself then he/she really doesn’t love you. A healthy relationship should be relaxing and fun. You should feel free to express who you really are with your partner. You shouldn’t feel that you need to fix yourself in order to meet your partner’s standard. Emotional abuse can happen to any one and it may eventually escalate to physical abuse if it isn’t stopped.
If you determine that these warning signs are part of your relationship, remember: you are not alone. You may not know how to get help. You may be afraid to leave the situation. Abusers know that they can control you emotionally because no one wants to admit that someone else has treated them so poorly. Do not be ashamed. Dating abuse is not your fault. Recognize the signs of dating abuse and get help if your relationship exhibits any of these characteristics. You don’t have to handle this alone. Sharing can save your life. For confidential help, please call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474.
loveisrespect.org, a collaboration of Break the Cycle and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, can now answer your questions and concerns via text message. Simply text “loveis” to 22522 for confidential help. Normal texting fees apply.