How do I know I have been abused?

Some background, some drama

One of the best ways to tell if you are being abused is to trust your gut. This is a difficult task, if your abuser has managed to make you doubt your own sanity, but it is vital to your survival and healing. Certainly, if they are physically abusing you, there will be bruises, bloodied noses, cuts and other injuries to indicate what's going on.

Do’s and Don’ts

You don't deserve it no matter how old or young you are, how mad the person became, or whether you were having a heated argument with them beforehand. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to help you understand that you are a victim of abuse and guide you in your healing process.


  • If you have been abused, you have to seek help. You are not equipped to handle this on your own.
  • Even though it hurts, you have to talk about it with someone you can trust. Find someone you can talk to like a friend, family member, counsellor or therapist. Talking about it to someone you trust is the first step to healing.
  • If you have experienced sexual abuse, the most important thing to do is stay safe.
  • Appropriate medical support and help can be really valuable if you have been sexually abused.
  • Trust yourself. If someone has assaulted you or is abusing you it can be hard to feel confident about what to do next. Remember it is never okay for someone to abuse for any reason.
  • Know your legal rights.


  • Don’t believe that you are a victim and deserve whatever abuse you receive.
  • Don’t believe that verbal abuse isn't really abuse. Yes it is, and it's incredibly effective and damaging.
  • Don’t let people tell you that boys will be boys. This is just a sorry excuse for aggressive masculine behaviour.
  • Don’t let people tell you that battered women are masochistic. No, they're just scared and believe they deserve it.
  • Don’t ever let people tell you that you have provoked the abuser.
  • Don’t believe that abuse only happens to certain persons. No! Abuse knows no prejudice.
  • Don’t believe that abuse doesn't happen to nice people. It does. First of all, you are not a bad person because you have experienced abuse. This is not your fault.
  • Don’t believe that abuse could never happen to you. Everyone is susceptible to abuse.

Last words

Survivors are well aware of the trauma and are troubled by memories of abuse. They live with pain, confusion and feelings of loneliness.

It is very common for survivors to not recognise that an experience was abusive, to deny it or to minimise the seriousness of what happened telling themselves that 'it only happened once' or 'it wasn't so bad'.

Many survivors live with symptoms of abuse, such as panic attacks, strange body sensations, inexplicable fears or aches and pains, which they are unable to explain. Their body remembers what happened to them and they relive the emotions and feelings associated with their trauma repeatedly. But with support and help they can slowly attempt to forget the horrors and move on…

Sources and citations