Signs of Abusive Relationships

Crystal Hohenthaner

Crystal Hohenthaner

Editor’s note: This column may contain subject matter of a graphic or sexual nature.

Dear Crystal,

I saw the play “How I Learned to Drive” and now I’ve been considering some past relationships in my life.

I’m afraid I may have been abused but it’s hard to tell because of the ways the guys I’ve dated have convinced me that I “wanted it” or it was all my fault.

Can you tell me some of the warning signs of abusive relationships?

If I did have abusive relationships in the past, can I do anything about it now?


Dear Troubled,

Sadly, it is likely your concerns are valid. There are a lot of women (and men) who are being emotionally and sexually abused, even within a relationship, and they don’t know how to identify or deal with it.

Unlike the more obvious types of physical abuse, the sexual abuse that occurs within a relationship doesn’t leave black eyes and broken bones, nor does the emotional abuse that can accompany it.

A first step toward an abusive relationship can be the erosion of one’s autonomy. Ideas that couples absolutely need one another or can’t live without each other can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

If someone is trying to make you need them, or force you to meet all their needs, it is unhealthy.

The first signs of this type of unhealthy interaction can sometimes seem innocent, but can escalate into something more severe.

Some of these signs include controlling behavior, constant criticism, isolation, a jealous or possessive nature, cycles of fighting and making up, aggressive physical contact, quick involvement, blaming others for their own problems or feelings, unrealistic expectations and hypersensitivity.

If any of these seems familiar, talk to a trained professional. Only a professional counselor can correctly and impartially assess the situation.

Student Health on campus and the Brookings Domestic Abuse Center have counselors who are ready and willing to discuss these issues with victims and abusers.

Student Health: 699-5588.

Brookings Domestic Abuse Center: 692-7233.

Send your sex questions to [email protected]