He doesn’t hit me, so why am I scared?
Feeling uneasy, tense, confused or scared may be a sign that there is something wrong with the way you are being treated in your relationship.
Abuse can be harder to recognise when it isn’t physical. But this doesn’t mean it is any less damaging.
Is my relationship abusive?
To determine if your relationship is abusive, you need to look at what the other person is doing, how it affects your life, how it makes you feel and where the balance of power lies in the relationship.
Trust your intuition: If something does not feel right to you, then it is probably not ok.
Some of the warning signs of abusive relationships are:
- Charm: Abusive men often seem thoughtful, considerate and charismatic at first. An abuser may use his charm to get very personal information from you, which he can later use against you. He can use charm to deceive you, your family and friends.
- Control: Over time, the abuser may begin to control who you talk to, where you go, what you wear and your access to money – until he has control over every aspect of your life.
- Isolation: An abuser may isolate you from your support network, geographically or socially. This often begins with him wanting to spend more and more time with you, and he might make it seem like this is because he cares about you.
How abusers get control
Over time, through a series of acts which cause you harm, fear or humiliation an abuser can make you feel intimidated, overpowered, ashamed, isolated, under-confident and overly dependent, until he has complete power and control over you. We call this type of abuse coercive control.
The abuser may use:
- Fear: the abuser may use many different behaviours to intimidate you, take away your power and make you scared. Fear can be the most powerful means of control.
- Intimidation: He may use intimidating body language, question you aggressively, constantly call and email you, break your possessions or stalk you.
- Verbal abuse: Constant putdowns, insults and verbal threats can humiliate you and destroy your self-esteem over time.
- Emotional and psychological abuse: Through his actions and comments, he may further undermine your sense of self and destroy your confidence and self-worth.
- Financial abuse: He may control the money you earn or spend, or not let you work so you become dependent on him.
Coercive controlling relationships can involve physical and sexual violence, but not always. When they don’t, it can be harder to have your voice heard and to get people to believe you. But these relationships are just as dangerous, and there is support available.
How to get help
Coercive control is not yet a crime in Australia, but some of the behaviours used by abusers in a coercive controlling relationship may be. You have a right to feel safe, and there are many services that can support you if you are in an abusive relationship.
If you are in immediate danger, call triple zero ‘000’.
Important national numbers for help
- Emergency 24/7 – 000
- 1800 RESPECT 24/7 – 1800 737 732
- Kids Help Line 24/7 – 1800 551 800
- Sexual Assault Counselling Aust – 1800 211 028
- Men’s Line – 1300 789 978
- Men’s Referral Service 24/7 – 1300 766 491
- TIS – need an interpreter? – 131 450
Important online help for your safety
- 1800RESPECT chat online (24/7) – www.1800respect.org.au
- Kids Help Line webchat counselling (24/7) – kidshelpline.com.au
- MensLine online counselling – mensline.org.au
- Men’s Referral Service live chat – ntv.org.au
What to expect when seeking help
All support services are confidential and are available to offer safety and support for you and your family. Support services are able to provide options that are best suited to your needs. Bilingual interpreters, Indigenous and multicultural specialists can be made available.
Produced for myDr.com.au by Women’s Safety NSW utilising adapted content from Legal Aid NSW’s Charmed and Dangerous resource.
Last Reviewed: 09/07/2020
1. NSW Government. Communities & Justice. What is domestic and family violence? Last updated Sept 2019. https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/domestic-violence/about/what-is-dv.
2. Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. 2018. Violence against women: Accurate use of key statistics (ANROWS Insights 05/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS. https://d2rn9gno7zhxqg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/19030556/ANROWS_VAW-Accurate-Use-of-Key-Statistics.1.pdf
3. Mission Australia. What is domestic and family violence? Accessed July 2020. https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/what-we-do/children-youth-families-and-communities/domestic-family-violence
4. Legal Aid NSW. Charmed and Dangerous: A Woman’s Guide to Reclaiming a Healthy Relationship. An initiative of Tweed Shire Women’s Services updated and developed by the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program (WDVCAP) at Legal Aid NSW. June 2019. Available at: http://www.northshoredomesticviolence.org.au/uploads/1/2/3/4/1234973/charmed_web.pdf