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. Older articles can be found in our News section. Our fifth early warning sign of abuse is:
Threatens or Intimidates You
You may think that if your partner threatens you, he/she doesn’t really mean it. You may think that they were acting out in the heat of the moment. It’s only talk. Maybe your partner has never followed through with a threat. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before something does happen. Threatening and intimidating you is another form of control.
You certainly know what a threat is, but you may not know what intimidation means. Webster’s online dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com) defines to intimidate as:
to make timid or fearful : frighten; especially : to compel or deter by or as if by threats.
Intimidation forces you to change your behavior, opinions or interests through fear. Fear of losing the abuser’s “love”, fear of pain from physical abuse, fear of harm to your family, friends or pets makes you accept the abuser’s behavior. If a partner is using fear to control you, it isn’t love.
Threats can range from the simple to the deadly serious: I won’t call you; I’ll break up with you; I’ll mess with your car; I’ll hurt your dog; I’ll hurt your family; I’ll kill you. An abuser will not just threaten you or your stuff. Your family, friends, and pets are fair game in an abuser’s mind because an abuser knows that you will do anything to keep your loved ones safe, even at the risk of your own life.
DO NOT take any threat lightly, especially those against your life or safety. Even if an abuser has never followed through, abuse escalates. Someday an “idle” threat may be followed by action. In fact, threatening your life is number one on the list of Lethal Warning Signs (see the list above). Don’t hesitate to tell someone if your partner has made any kind of threat against you or those you care about.
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.