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Signs of an Abusive Marriage and How to Get Help for Domestic Violence

Find out how to protect yourself from an abusive relationship


Crazy Love - St. Martin's Press

Crazy Love Book Jacket © Courtesy of St. Martin's Press

Everyone is a victim of domestic violence. Those who are abused are the obvious victims of domestic violence and often have emotional scars or bruises and injuries to prove it. Those who abuse their spouse are victims because they are sick and need help – and were likely abused themselves at some point in their lives. Many others know people who abuse or who have been abused. Even if you don’t think you know anyone who has been affected by domestic violence, you might be wrong. And violence, even in the privacy of one’s home, is an affront to civilized society as a whole.

The numbers on domestic violence speak for themselves. About 33 million people or 15 percent of all U.S. adults admit that they were a victim of domestic violence, and six in 10 adults say they know someone personally who has experienced domestic violence, according to the 2006 Harris Poll as reported by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH). On average more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, “Intimate Partner Violence, 1993 to 2001”, as reported by NDVH.

Newlyweds, who are usually full of optimism, hope, and love, are not immune. “Abuse can start on the honeymoon,” says Kerri Wojciechowski, associate director of Community Relations at the House of Ruth in Maryland. In fact, Leslie Morgan Steiner, a Harvard graduate and MBA with accomplished marketing and writing careers, reveals in her memoir, Crazy Love (St. Martin’s Press, 2009) that her first husband beat her for the first time just days before their wedding. Although she admits in the book that there were signs he might become violent earlier in the relationship, he did not physically harm her until they were about to walk down the aisle. She was young and in love and sure things would change.

Many people, especially women who are abused by their spouses more often than men, blame themselves and are reluctant to talk about what is happening to them, adds Wojciechowski. It becomes a secret – as it did for Steiner, at least for some time – and that’s dangerous.

Some people are ashamed and that is why they don’t tell anyone about what’s going on at home. They make excuses for their abusers. They think it might be a one-time assault or that they did something to provoke them or that stress is causing the problem. Others aren’t even sure that what is happening to them is abuse. After all, emotional abuse is more subtle and harder to define. But often it is a warning sign of a controlling relationship that has the potential for violence.


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