The statistics are terrifying.

Currently, one in three women are victims of domestic violence and one in five have been or will be severely physically abused in their lifetime. That sentence alone makes my knees buckle and my head spin as I think of the women and children who live in daily fear of their abuser. The sadness behind the truth is not JUST that the statistics are climbing every year but that the statistics are about human beings, people you know. Think about it for a moment: statistically, one in three of the women in your group of friends, coworkers, family, and even fellow Bible study attendees is a victim of domestic violence. One in three. This societal disease is an open wound in our world. It knows no boundaries and respects no individual. It’s there, it’s real, and it’s devastating.

As a survivor of domestic abuse and an advocate for recovery and safety, I can say that I’ve seen a lot of the worst that humans can do to someone they say they love. But abuse isn’t always obvious to the casual observer. In fact, abuse isn’t always as blatant as a black eye or someone wearing long-sleeve shirts in the summertime to cover the marks on their arms. No, abuse is often far more deceptive to the naked eye, but armed with information, you’ll be able to spot some of the warning signs that someone you know or love is in an unhealthy relationship. Armed with the information, you’ll be in a better position to offer help to those who cannot currently help themselves.

Some of the many signs of domestic abuse include:

  •  Making excuses for bruises or marks that normally wouldn’t be there, i.e.: “I’m so clumsy, I fell down the stairs” or “He didn’t mean to do it, I just got in the way.”
  •  Having to ask for permission to visit family or friends, being isolated.
  •  Not having access to funds, a credit card/debit card, cell phone, or a vehicle.
  •  Having to hang up on phone calls because he’s “in a mood,” “not feeling well,” or “will be home soon.”
  •  Unable to make healthy eye contact or seeming jumpy or nervous.
  •  Covering up bruises or other marks with makeup, clothing, or glasses.
  •  Running interference when a child does something wrong.
  •  Seems depressed or not their “old self.”
  •  Over-apologizing for trivial things to you and others (often a sign she has to do this at home).
  •  Having to respond to his texts or phone calls within seconds or minutes of receiving them.

Now, it’s safe to say that any of the above instances (in moderation) may be normal during different phases of a relationship, but observation will play a key factor on if it’s something that’s a little out of line or a LOT out of line and should be discussed further in a safe (and private) location.

One important thing to know: you may be the lifeline for a woman involved in domestic abuse. Be open to hear what she’s really saying and have a heart that shows her compassion and kindness. If she’s being abused, your actions and reactions to what you see and hear from her need to be out of love and compassion for her (and her children) or she may put up a wall to protect herself if her husband finds out she’s telling anyone. More than likely, she’s very afraid, so don’t push her to do something or make a drastic change before she’s ready as you could be pushing her toward the abuser. Instead, be that safe person to her that she desperately needs and love her where she’s at.

If you are being abused, please know this: you are very valuable and there is hope.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

For immediate assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

This is the first in a three-part series. Check back next week for part 2 of our series on domestic violence.