How to Spot the Red Flags of Abuse

ICT editorial team

One common thread in abuse: Abusive partner will do anything to gain power and control in a relationship

Mallory Black

Strong Hearts

Exploring a new relationship is an exciting time where it might seem like every moment you are learning something new about your partner’s culture, family and beliefs.

While you and your partner might be having fun getting to know each other, it’s important to watch for certain behaviors when dating someone new. In the beginning of a relationship, it’s not always easy to tell if your partner might become abusive.

It can also be hard to spot the early warning signs of abuse because every relationship is different. The one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner will do anything to gain power and control over their partner.

Here are some early “red flags” to look for — but know that these behaviors can appear in a relationship at any time.

Does your partner:

· Move too fast into the relationship or pressure you to commit?

· Shower you with compliments or seem “too good to be true”?

· Constantly ask where you are all the time or frequently call or text you throughout the day?

· Follow you around or show up at your home, school or work without telling you in advance?

· Pressure you to have sex before you’re ready?

· Act extremely jealous or possessive of you?

· Make jokes about your culture or put you down for being Native?

· Lose their temper with you or yell at you in private but stay calm around others?

· Insist that you “make more time for them” by spending less time with your family or friends?

· Encourage you to quit school or work, or to stop participating in activities and hobbies?

· Insist on driving you everywhere or check your car mileage when you return?

· Blame their former partners for abuse in previous relationships (for example, “My ex was crazy” or “It wasn’t that bad”)?

Someone who acts in these ways may try to blame their partner for their own abusive behavior. No matter the reason a person chooses to abuse, it is never their partner’s fault.

What You Can Do

If you experience one or more of these “red flags,” please call the StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483), Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST. Knowledgeable advocates can connect with you one-on-one and help you figure out your options. Advocates are trained with an understanding of intimate partner violence, including spiritual or cultural abuse. Our advocates can provide support and validation, safety planning and access to resources in your community. For more information, visit

Mallory Black**, Diné*,**is the Communications Manager for the StrongHearts Native Helpline, a confidential and anonymous helpline for Native Americans affected by domestic violence. If you or a loved one is in an abusive relationship, support is available at 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483), open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST. Advocates offer peer-to-peer support and referrals to culturally-appropriate resources for domestic violence. After hours calls may choose to connect with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and all calls remain anonymous and confidential.*