That’s Not Love: Red Flags for Emotional Abuse

What if a close family member of yours was being abused and they didn’t realize it? What if you haven’t realized it? How would you feel? What if the signs were subtle and they left no physical marks? What if it were your daughter? Your sister? Your brother? Or, your best friend? How familiar are you with the red flags of emotional abuse?

Recently, a friend of mine shared an article through Facebook with video that highlighted the “the abuse we don’t talk about[,]” emotional abuse. The video was embedded in this article from  The Greatest. The title of the article made me think about how abusive relationships are often summed up as physical abuse. The signs of physical abuse can be easier to spot than other types of abuse and are often more difficult to ignore, but there are often other signs of abuse that occur before the abuse becomes physical. Being able to recognize these red flags are key to getting out of an abusive relationship or bringing awareness to those who may be in one and not yet recognize it.

Just because it’s not physical, doesn’t mean that it’s not abuse. Using threats, intimidation, isolation, guilt, and disrespect to control someone is still abuse. Emotional abuse can be and is often used with physical abuse to maintain power and control. Often times, well after the physical injuries have healed, the affects of the emotional abuse are still present. These affects come in the form low self esteem and confidence, anxiety, depression, to name a few.[1]

I found two statistics that were alarming to me:

  1. “Eighty-one (81) percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.”[2]
  2. “Though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.”[3]

These two stats are more than a few years old, so take them with a grain of salt. However, I found them still to be quoted by the CDC fact sheets in 2016 and referenced on most of the well known abuse prevention sites.

As a father, this definitely touched home for me. The organization who produced the video I spoke about earlier, has also produced eight short (16 seconds) cartoons that show how an abuser can emotionally abuse their partner. I thought that these videos could be a great resource for parents to get a better understanding of the warning signs and to use to introduce their teens, who may be starting to date, to what emotional abuse may look like. I created a playlist and added all the videos so that anyone interested in doing this or sharing it, could easily watch all of them.

Some additional resources:

Resources by State for Domestic Violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Understanding the different types of abuse and red flags.

What is Domestic Violence? By the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

How to help a friend who is being abused.

Love Is Respect

Join One Love  and their YouTube page.



1 University of Michigan Health System Fact Sheet, 2007.

2 “Women’s Health,” June/July 2004, Family Violence Prevention Fund and Advocates for Youth,

3 Fifth & Paci c Companies, Inc. (Liz Claiborne, Inc.), Conducted by Teen Research Unlimited, (May 2009). “Troubled Economy Linked to High Levels of Teen Dating Violence & Abuse Survey 2009,” Available at:

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