The Hidden Warning Signs of Domestic Violence


At the Level 1 Trauma Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, we see injuries that occur for a variety of reasons, including motor vehicle collisions, falls and violence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), intimate partner violence is physical, sexual or psychological and can cause harm from either a current or former partner or spouse.

It can happen to anyone.

Intimate partner violence can happen to anyone from any walk of life. However, some factors put individuals more at risk, such as depression, low self-esteem, lack of social support, low income, and a history of abuse as a child.

Women appear to be more at risk than men to experience physical violence and, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a woman is physically beaten every 18 seconds. Sadly, women are five to eight times more likely to be victimized or killed by a partner.

Physical injuries characteristic of domestic abuse include:

  • Bilateral injuries (primarily concerning limbs)
  • Fingernail scratches
  • Cigarette and rope burns
  • Injuries at multiple sites

Up to 50 percent of injuries occur to the head and neck, with 94 percent of victims reporting facial injuries. Defensive injuries such as sprains, fractures and dislocations of the wrist or forearm are also commonly observed. Sexual assault is also reported by 33-46 percent of physically battered women.

While physical injury may be the most obvious effect of intimate partner violence, the psychological impact can be just as severe and debilitating. Studies have shown that intimate partner violence results in both depression and suicide attempts, as well as the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

What does it look like?

Abuse by an intimate partner may come without warning from a seemingly perfect partner, but once this starts, the pattern usually includes an increase in the abuse.

In the beginning, partner violence is often followed by attempts to make up with gifts or promises to not hurt their partner again. However, this is part of the pattern abusive partners typically use to keep their partners in abusive relationships.

Warning signs include a partner who is:

  • Jealous
  • Controlling every move
  • Threatening you and your family if their requests aren’t met
  • Either physical or psychological harm inflicted
  • Keeping you isolated from family or friends

For more warning signs, as well as what to do about it, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help.

Someone you know in danger?

If you or someone you know ever feels that they are in an abusive relationship, help is available. Always call 911 if you feel that you are in danger of being harmed.

Here are four quick tips that can help:

  1. If you believe a loved one is in an abusive relationship, let them know you are concerned and there to listen.
  2. Never blame someone for the relationship or the situation they are currently in.
  3. Always call 911 in the event that you feel your loved one is in immediate danger.
  4. Encourage your loved one that help is available. Local resources (such as Genesis and The Family Place) can provide a variety of services including shelter and counseling. There are also national resources, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, that can help with planning and identifying options for safety.

Join us this Saturday, January 25th at For Women For Life, a free women’s health and wellness day. Our team from the Level 1 trauma center at Baylor Dallas will be there to provide information on injury prevention for women, including reducing the risk of injury from intimate partner violence.

About the author

Dr. Ann Marie Warren
More articles

Dr. Warren is a clinical psychologist at Baylor Dallas' Level 1 Trauma Center. She provides psychological intervention for patients who sustain severe injuries and is the principal investigator for research that focuses on how trauma impacts patients.

Leave a Reply

The Hidden Warning Signs of Domestic Violence