This month marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, raising awareness of one of the most under reported crimes around the world.
Many people automatically associate the term domestic violence with images of physically battered women but it is incredibly important to understand abusive intimate partner relationships take many forms and impact people of all genders, ages, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.
Sexual assault or coercion, emotional abuse and financial control are also ways in which people damage their partners.
Adolescents who are not cohabitating, including young teens, are not immune from intimate partner violence. Neither are men or people who are in same sex relationships.
While many relationships can cause changes (for example, your non athletic friend has a new found love of a sport their current partner likes), sudden and severe differences in personality and temperament can be warning signs of an unhealthy dynamic. This is particularly true if it is coupled with the breakdown of other important relationships in a person's life. Abuse can run rampant when people are isolated from their support network.
If you are worried that a friend or loved one may be in an abusive relationship and notice them becoming distant and hard to reach, encourage them to seek help. Be supportive and non-judgmental. Remember that ultimately this is their decision to make, so don't pressure them to leave their relationship immediately if they are not ready.
Once they do decide to leave, help them develop a safety plan.
You can research local resources here for more information.
As a society we have made some positive strides around the issue of intimate partner violence but we still have a long way to go in supporting vulnerable people in need and giving them safe alternatives to the very real dangers they face.