Toxic Parents: “Hurt people Hurt” National crisis of epidemic proportion

“Parents it’s not cool to abuse your children, you are creating a monster as well as a vicious cycle of abusers that will last from generation to generations”

Toxic Parents: “Hurt people Hurt”

National crisis of epidemic proportion

by Dr. Sharon R. Bonds, PhD.


No matter your age, you can be the recipient of verbal or physical abuse at the hands of  your parents; either by act or omission (allowing the actions of the abusive parent to take place while you, the other parent sit back laugh and do nothing).  Abuse can happen to anyone at any age by their parents, while parents are likely to continuously get away with it and the problem is overlooked, excused, denied or rendered as a form of discipline.  This is especially true when the abuse is psychological and not physical.  Psychological abuse is much more devastating than physical abuse mainly because the affects are hidden yet stored inside by the child and the abused child carries that abuse on to their child and the cycle goes on from one generation to another because the child thinks that this is normal when he/she is acting from learn behavior from the abusive parents teachings. Additionally, the abuse child allows those negative feelings, pain and hurt to fester inside thus causing reprehensible damage both emotionally and psychologically. In other words, holding on to anger and secrets will make you sick, as will those unforgiving thoughts and transgressions.  To all the victims’ of parental verbal abuse know that you are not the blame or the cause of what your parents said negatively to you or about you.  You have the power within your mind to forgive them and create a different reality for yourself.  Yes you can do something about it.  First realize that sticks and stone will break your bones, but words last forever! Then look at the source that’s speaking negatively to you or abusing you, begin to examine and question your parents’ life choices while you look at the relationship that your parents have with their parents.  Watch your parents’ behavior, look at their life and the relationship that the parents have with each other.  Notice how your parents get along and you will see that they are not qualified to speak negatively about you or on one else for that fact.  Note that in most cases that the parents where abused by their parents, which resulted in unresolved anger being bestowed on the child.  Hurt people hurt!  Your parents need to forgive their parents before they can successfully have a relationship with you, their child and or their spouse.  Also, we as children learn from out parents and each other, so if behavior is learned from our parents how can parents parent if they haven’t been parented before? So in essence parents render to their kids what their parents rendered to them, in most cases, good or bad.

Emotional abuse is generally minimized, yet it will leave deep and lasting scars.  Noticing and acknowledging the warnings signs and symptoms of parental abuse is the first steps to ending it.  No one should live in pain, fear and embarrassment caused by the parents they love.  When you recognize yourself or others in such situations, please reach out and assist, be it yourself or the other person, in finding professional help.

Parental abuse occurs when the parents tries to dominate, badger or control their children because they can, out of hidden anger that they hold for their parents or simply out of jealously.  If it’s physical then it’s considered as domestic violence, parental abuse, assault or assault on a minor.  It generally occurs when one parent is the perpetrator and the other parent knows that this crime is being committed on their child and does nothing. Yes the parent that does nothing is just as guilty as the abusive parent for allowing this transgression to go on.  Parents are to teach, correct and protect, not harm or abuse their children.

Abusive parents’ main goal is to maintain total control over their children at all cost through abrasive tactics.  These types of parents never play fair!  They use fear, guilt, shame, lies and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under their thumb.  They will threaten you or hurt you. Sometimes they wait until you are around your other siblings, family members and friends to ridicule as well as embellish your most embarrassing moments. They distort the truth to make you look bad or they go back to something you did in your childhood and rehash old mistakes that you made to shame, embarrass and intimidate you, thus affecting your self esteem.  Thus causing your siblings as well as other family members to turn on you because of the parents’ venomous words causing confusion, sibling rivalry and division as a means to concur and destroy.   Abusive parents will step so low at times, they outline all of your failed relationships in sequential order and place there interpretation and spin on why those relationships failed. This is done at family gatherings, church, social events, funerals and public outings because of their failed attempts to break the child down or their jealousy and or their continued attempt to maintain control over you while causing a separation of the family. Then they sit  and wonder why on holidays there children won’t stop by to see them and when they get sick or need a ride to the doctor or store their children are nowhere to be found.  Parents should understand that there comes a point in a child’s life when they have to choose them. So parents, if you want to be by yourself without your child’s participation in your life, abuse is the recipe for total separation between you and your child.  Abuse does not discriminate. It happens to children of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and economic levels. The bottom line is that abusive parenting is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from the father, the mother or both. You as the child deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.

Recognizing parental abuse is a major step to getting help

Parental abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. Even though physical injury may be the most visible; the emotional and psychological consequences of parental abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain—and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of your situation, then you can get the help you need and remove yourself from that environment.

Signs of a parental abusive relationship

There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your parents. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your parents—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a parent who belittles you or tries to control you especially in public, feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.  They will tell you that they are going to break you, you will never succeed, they question your sexuality, constantly putting you down by telling you that you will never amount to anything or call you out of your name, this is abuse!

To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Four out of six “yes” means that you are in an abusive relationship with your parents.


Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings

Your Parents’ Belittling Behavior

Do you:

  • Feel afraid of your parents most of the time?
  • Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your parents?
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right for your parents, let them tell it?
  • Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • Feel emotionally numb or helpless?
  • Feel like hurting your parents verbally or physically?

Does your parents:

  • Humiliate or yell at you?
  • Criticize you and put you down?
  • Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
  • Ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
  • Blame you for his/her own abusive behavior?
  • See you as property or a slave, rather than as a person?
  • Questions your expenditures, who you date or where you live.

Your Parents’ Violent Behavior or Threats

Your Parents’ Controlling Behavior

Does your parents:

  • Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • Threaten to cut you out of their Will if you don’t do what they want?
  • Force you to go to family functions?
  • Destroy your belongings?

Does your parents:

  • Act excessively jealous and possessive?
  • Control where you go or what you do?
  • Your parents will help a stranger before will help their children and if they help their children it will be done selectively, they discriminate.
  • Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
  • Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • Constantly check up on you?

Child physical abuse and domestic violence

When we talk about domestic violence, we are often referring to the physical abuse of a child or spouse. Physical abuse is the use of physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack.

It Is Still Abuse If . . .

  • The incidents of physical abuse seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard other children talk about. There isn’t a “better” or “worse” form of physical abuse; you can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example.
  • The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times by the parent Studies indicate that if your parents have injured you once, it is likely they will continue to physically assault you.
  • The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a child in exchange for not being assaulted!
  • There has not been any physical violence. Many children are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.

Emotional abuse: It’s a bigger problem than you think

When people think of parental abuse, they often picture a battered child that has been physically assaulted. But not all abusive relationships involve violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Many children suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked—even by the person being abused and if resurfaces latter in life when the abuser is rearing their children in an abusive manner because of  there parents’ treatment of them and this cycle goes on from one generation to another.  Hurt people hurt!

Understanding parental emotional abuse

The goal of parental abuse is to chip away at the child’s feelings of self-worth and independence, thus effecting their self esteem. A child that’s the victim of parental abuse will feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without their abusive parents they will have nothing.  Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. isolation, intimidation, bullying, badgering and controlling behavior. Additionally, parental abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want when they want too.  You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run a lot deeper then physical abuse. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse and in most cases.

Economic or financial abuse: A subtle form of emotional abuse

Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and parents will frequently use money to do so Economic or financial abuse includes:

  • Rigidly controlling your finances.
  • Withholding money or credit cards.
  • Making you account for every penny you spend.
  • Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)
  • Refusing to assist you when you are in need without belittling or cursing you first, but they are quick to assist a stranger rather than their own child.
  • Restricting you to an allowance.
  • Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.
  • Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)

Violent and abusive behavior is the parental abuser’s choice

Despite what many people believe, parental domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his or her behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control their child.

Abusive parents use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power:

  • Dominance – Abusive parents need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abusive parent will treat you like you owe them something or they have a sense of entitlement because you are their child or even as the parents possession.
  • Humiliation – An abusive parent will do everything within their power to make the child feel bad about them self or defective in some way. After all, if the child believes they are worthless and that no one else will want them, they will be less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode the child’s self-esteem and make them feel powerless.
  • Isolation – In order to increase the child’s dependence on their parents, an abusive parent will cut the child off from the outside world. The parent may keep the child from seeing family or friends, or even prevent them from going to work or school. The child may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
  • Threats – Parental abusers commonly uses threats of inheritance or removal for the will as a means to control their children.
  • Intimidation – Parental abusers may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare their child into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of them, destroying property or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if the child don't obey, there will be violent consequences.
  • Denial and blame – Parental abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive parents may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. Parents will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behavior is your fault.

Parental abusers are able to control their behavior—they do it all the time.

  • Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don’t insult, threaten, or assault everyone in their life who gives them grief. Usually, they save their abuse for the people closest to them, the ones they claim to love, their children.
  • Abusers carefully choose when and where to abuse. They control themselves until no one else is around to see their abusive behavior. They may act like everything is fine in public, but lash out instantly as soon as you’re alone.
  • Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are not out of control. In fact, they’re able to immediately stop their abusive behavior when it’s to their advantage to do so (for example, when the police show up or their boss calls).

Violent abusers usually direct their blows where they won’t show . Rather than acting out in a mindless rage, many physically violent abusers carefully aim their kicks and punches where the bruises and marks won’t s

  • how.

The cycle of violence in domestic abuse

  • Abuse – Your abusive parents lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show you "who is boss."
  • Guilt – After abusing you, your parents’ feels guilt, but not over what he's done. He’s more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for his abusive behavior.
  • Excuses – Parental abuser rationalizes their behavior that was done. The parent may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
  • "Normal" behavior — The abusive parent does everything they can to regain control and keep the child in the relationship. The parent usually acts as if nothing has happened, or turns on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the child hope that the parental abuser has really changed this time.
  • Fantasy and planning – The parent that abuses begins to fantasize about abusing you again. Generally they will spend a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how they will make you pay. Then they make a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
  • Set-up – Parental abusers set the child up and puts their plan in motion, creating a situation where they can justify abusing you.

Your abusing parent’s apologies and loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult for you to disassociate your self from them, but for your health’s sake you need to distance yourself and deal with them with a long handle spoon. Your parents will make the child believe that they are the only person that can help you and there way is the only way and ultimately thing will be different this time, and that they truly love you, trust me, RUN! However, the dangers of staying are very real.

Verbal abuse is a form of abusive behavior involving the use of both verbal and

body language.  The language aspect differs from profanity in that it can occur

without the use of expletives, which are curse words. Most people think that verbal abuse manifest itself through the use of profanity and bad words, but body language can be abusive as well; an example would be stirring, eye rolling, hand gestures and funny looks.  “Yes,” in my opinion body language can be abusive especially when it’s being displayed along with the abrasive language.  To put it simply, verbal abuse can be defined as the use of words to cause pain in the victim’s life that can be accompanied with or without body language.  Verbal abuse is the act of using words to tear apart the soul intentionally even if the perpetrator is attempting to evoke change in the victim there is no excuse for verbal abuse. Verbal abuse generally involves the following types of abusive behavior:

  • Referring to the opinions of others as irrelevant and wrong.
  • Inconsideration of a person’s feelings.
  • Using verbal abuse jokingly.
  • Refusing to listen to others.
  • Using accusations and blame to manipulate and control others.
  • Being judgmental and critical of others.
  • Belittling the concerns of others.
  • Consistently berating a person’s confidence.
  • Threats to do physical harm.
  • Name-calling.
  • Purposeful cancellation of appointments or agreements.
  • Making difficult or impossible demands on others.
  • Denial of perpetrating the abuse.
  • Causing fear in people through outbursts of rage.
  • Simply yelling.
  • A subtle funny look, stirring or rolling eyes.

Verbal abuse is a kind of emotional battering that leaves permanent scars.  Whether the perpetrator of the abuse intends to inflict emotional harm or not, the damage is done if the recipient perceives’ it to be hurtful thus causing the individual pain.  That perceived pain is more damaging than most forms of physical abuse.  With physical abuse you can see the evidence on the victim’s body but with verbal abuse the physical evidence is generally displayed through various types of destructive behaviors that the victim displays in an attempt to hide or overcompensate for their pain.  Verbal abuse is often invisible because the acts of abuse occur in private as the victims’ life is generally private.  Unless control is lost through attempts to mask or hide the negative impact that the abuse has on the victim or perpetrator the results will be displayed  in the misuse of drug, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, gambling, mental illness, stress, etc.  The victim of abuse must avoid depression and realize that sometimes words are used harshly by people without realizing how hurtful words are perceived by the victim. A daily barrage of hurtful words leads to depression, which is very common in an abusive situation.  Avoiding depression can be accomplished when steps are taken to dispel it.  Inactivity of one’s situation breeds depression. Some active steps that the victim can take to counteract the effects of depression are as follows:

  1. Never hold yourself responsible for the abuse it’s not your fault. There’s no justification for abuse.
  2. Make an attempt to discuss the unacceptable behavior with the abuser. Let the abuser know how devastating the harsh words are.
  3. Discuss ways to change and improve the relationship.
  4. Seek counseling: whether it is together, separately, or individually.
  5. Surround yourself with a support system of friends, family, church group, etc.
  6. If the verbal abuse becomes physical, personal safety is imperative. Leave the volatile situation and allow time for cooling down. Physical abuse is totally unacceptable.
  7. Never make excuses for the abuse because of an existing problem such as the lack of money, loss of employment, death in the family, etc. Stop blaming yourself for existing problems and be real about your situation.

At the moment of being verbally abused, remember to:

  • Stay calm. Do not become agitated.
  • Let the abuser vent. The perpetrator will lose steam and generally realize that the victim will eventually refuse to accept their abuse.
  • Do not reward the abuser by reacting to their actions with hurtful responses. Lashing out lets the abusers know that they have power in affecting the victim’s emotions.
  • Don’t respond!

Now, verbal abuse can manifest itself through nervous break downs, mental illness,

stokes, heart attacks, over eating, excessive compulsions, drug abuse, gender disorder,

Homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, as well as other physical aliment and it can acerbate or accelerate a pre-existing medical and or emotional condition.  Verbal abuse is dangerous for the victim and the perpetrator.  Some additional major concerns of verbal abuse :

  • It creates a pretend world of control
  • It ostracizes its victims and isolates them
  • It denigrates and diminishes human beings
  • It invades the victim’s inner world and self-definition resulting in diminished self-esteem
  • Most verbal abuse is done in secret and by the time its exposed, serious damage has been done emotionally, mentally and medically.
  • Some victims believe that verbal abuse is normal if they experienced it from an early age.
  • Verbal abuser coerces some victims into protecting the perpetrators.
  • It’s a learned behavior characteristic and can be passed on from generation to generation.

When an individual has been the victim of verbal abuse that generally has a devastating effect on their self-esteem and the individual generally looks to a spouse, drugs, alcohol, sex, material things, etc. to fulfill them.  The perpetrator also looks to religion to justify their behavior which ultimately impacts negatively because of the feelings of guilty or feeling of not being abusive enough to evoke change in the victim, thus lowering the individual’s self-esteem even more.

Self-esteem is the true sense you have of your intrinsic value that’s derived from your perceptions, both conscious and unconscious of your values to others.  It can be further defined as the trust you have in your ability to perform behaviors and achieve goals that’s considered to be important.  Parents are the first to give their child self-esteem by telling them that they are so cute, smart, funny and intelligent when the child is younger and as the child get older they are the first ones to take it away when the parent belittles, degrade and embarrass the child..

To put it simply, self-esteem is liking you unconditionally, as you are no matter what your dress size or physical ailment consist of.  The perpetrator of verbal abuse is generally someone that’s close to the victim like a parent, spouse, sibling, family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor. Parents are the first one’s to give their kids self-esteem and the first one’s to take it away by name-calling, and demeaning responses but then they wander why the child has difficulties in making sound decisions or have issues with drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, transgender disorder, mental illness, stressed out, confused and difficulties with selecting a suitable mate.  Parents are more likely than not the etiology of the child’s problems and the bane of their existence.

Note that verbal abuse has its own set of characteristics and some are listed as follows:

  • The verbal abuse is being utilized as a means of control.
  • The verbal abuse is painful and the primary focus of the attack is related to the victims’ nature and abilities or the lack thereof.
  • The victim blames them self for the existing problems and began to behave or mimic the perpetrator or the victim starts believing that something is wrong with them mentally, physically, emotionally or intellectually rather than the perpetrator.
  • The verbal abuse is generally overt (through angry outbursts, sarcastic remarks and name- calling) or covert (involving very subtle comments, even something that approaches brainwashing). Overt verbal abuse is usually blaming and accusatory, and consequently confusing the victim. Covert verbal abuse, which is hidden aggression, is even more confusing to the victim. Its aim is to control the individual without them realizing it.
  • Verbal abuse is a form of manipulation and control.  Even disparaging comments can be voiced in an apparently sincere and concerned way but the goal of the abuser is to control and manipulate.
  • Verbal abuse is insidious. The victims’ self-esteem gradually diminishes, usually without them realizing it. The victim will consciously or unconsciously attempt to change there behavior so as not to upset the abuser and began living according to the perpetrators’ will.
  • Verbal abuse is unpredictable. In fact, unpredictability is one of the most significant characteristics of verbal abuse. The victim is stunned, devastated shocked, and thrown off balance by the perpetrators’ sarcasm, angry jab, put-down, criticism, negativity or hurtful comments.
  • Verbal abuse is not a side issue if it exists in any type of relationship you are involved in. The issue is the abuse and if this issue is not resolved it can escalate into a serious problem.
  • Verbal abuse expresses a double message. There is incongruence between the way the abuser speaks and there real feelings.
  • Verbal abuse usually escalates, increasing in intensity, frequency, and is the gateway to physical abuse.

The Full Cycle of Parental Domestic Violence: Examples

A parent abuses his child. After he verbally abuses the child, he experiences self-directed guilt . He says, "I'm sorry for the hurtful words, but that’s the only way that I can deal with you because you don’t listen, so I have to call you names to wake you up." What he does not say is, "Because I might get caught or I’m losing control." The parent then realizes and rationalizes his behavior by saying that this child talks to me bad, rough but neglects’ to examine their provoking behavior. The parent tells the child "If you weren't such a worthless whore I wouldn't have to hit you or screamed at you." The abusive parent then acts contrite , reassuring the child that he will not hurt her again. He then fantasizes and reflects on past abuse and how he will hurt her again. He plans on telling her siblings and other family members at the next family gathering or the parent works the phone like an operator calling the family telling them how they abuse their child.

Another example of a parent losing control and abusing there child is when the child starts to date and the parent call the child’s suitor and says nasty thing about the child to destroy the child relationship.  I know of a parent that called there child’s live-in boy friend behind the child’s back and told the boy friend that the child is a lair and you can’t believe nothing that the child says, its my child and they are a master manipulator that’s out to suck you dry and drain you financially, she is just using you for your money.   The suitor said that he wasn’t effected by the comments but unconscientiously the boy friend retained that comment and began to call his girl friend a liar and he stopped contributing financially to the household, but rather he supports and contributes to other friends and family households but not the one he is living in, he refuses to emotionally support her during family get to gathers while he begins to become abusive by mimicking the parents abusive behavior, acting out and ridiculing.

I recommend in this case that the child deal with their parent with a long handle spoon thus putting some distance between them and their parents….their parents need to miss them and know that if life was a theatre I would advise them to choose their audience carefully. Not everyone including your parents are sacred, holy or healthy enough to have a front row seat in your life. There are some people, including parents that are in your life that need to be loved from a distance and I mean, fed with a long handle spoon.

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you let go, or at least minimize your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not-going-anywhere relationships/familyships/ associateships/friendships/fellowships!

Observe and structure the relationships in your life and those around you. Began to notice and pay attention to: Which ones lift and which ones lean? Which ones encourage and which ones discourage? Which ones are on a path of growth which leads uphill and which ones are leading downhill?

When you depart from and or leave certain people, do you feel better, worse or nothing at all? Which ones always have drama or don't really understand, know and appreciate you and the gift that lies within you? If that person is not promoting growth and development in your life….remember to deal with them with a long handle spoon. Association breeds assimilations.

The more you seek God and the things of God -- the more you seek quality, (when the student is ready the master will appear) the more you seek not just the hand of God but the face of God -- the more you seek things that are honorable -- the more you seek growth, development, peace of mind, love and truth around you, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the FRONT ROW seat of your life and who should be moved to the back balcony.

You cannot change the people around you... but you can change the people
you are around!  You can not control people around you but you can control your response to their behavior.  Ask God for wisdom and discernment and choose wisely the people who sit in the front row of your life.  Know that you’re a choice not an option!

There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you are committed to something you accept no excuses, ONLY RESULTS."

Recognizing the warning signs of parental domestic violence and abuse

It's impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.

General warning signs of parental domestic abuse

Children who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their parents.
  • Go along with everything their parent says and does.
  • Check in often with their parents to report where they are and what they’re doing.
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their parents.
  • Talk about their parent’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.

Warning signs of physical violence

People who are being physically abused may:

  • Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents.”
  • Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
  • Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)

Warning signs of isolation

People who are being isolated by their abuser may:

  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
  • Rarely go out in public without their parents.
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.

The psychological warning signs of abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
  • Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn).
  • Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.

Speak up if you suspect domestic violence or abuse

If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or the person might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save his or her life.

Do's and Don’ts


  • Ask if something is wrong.
  • Express concern.
  • Listen and validate.
  • Offer help.
  • Support his or her decisions.


  • Wait for your parents come to you.
  • Judge or blame.
  • Pressure him or her.
  • Give advice.
  • Place conditions on your support.

Talk to the person in private and let him or her know that you’re concerned. Point out the things you’ve noticed that make you worried. Tell the person that you’re there, whenever he or she feels ready to talk. Reassure the person that you’ll keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let him or her know that you’ll help in any way you can.

Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.

by Dr. Sharon R. Bonds, PhD.

This article is copyrighted.

Copyright © The Library of Congress 2011

Schedule Appointment

Start your new path in life and be the change today!

Click Here

Helpful Forms

Click here to view and print forms for your appointment.

Click Here