Typically, there are signs of physical abuse both within and outside the relationship in which it occurs. However, spotting the signs of physical abuse may not always be easy and sometimes people choose to overlook them as they don’t wish to believe that physical abuse is taking place. There are typically physical, behavioural and emotional signs of physical abuse. Behaviours are seen both in the abuser and in the victim.


Obvious signs of physical abuse are often physical in nature. These may include:

  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Restraint or grip markings
  • Black eyes
  • Unusual pattern of injury; repeated trips to the emergency room

More information on Effects of Physical Abuse, Pictures of Physical Abuse.

And while these signs of physical abuse may seem obvious, most victims will try to cover them up so as to hide the abuse due to fear of the abuser or shame about the abuse. While physical violence is never okay, and physical abuse is never the fault of the victim, many victims feel the abuse is their fault.

While not strictly physical, many behavioural patterns can also be signs of physical abuse. These signs may include:

  • Name-calling and put-downs; overt anger; threats; attempts to intimidate by the abuser
  • Restricting the victim’s movements (preventing them from attending work or school, controlling what they do or say)
  • Restricting the victim’s access to money
  • Overt jealousy or possessiveness over the victim
  • A delay between the time of injury and the seeking of treatment – this may be because the victim is unable to leave the house for treatment or due to the shame felt over the abuse
  • The victim’s noncompliance with a treatment regimen such as missed medical appointments or an inability to take medication due to lack of access to money
  • Victim’s fear of disagreeing with her abuser
  • The abuser harming other people or animals in the victim’s life


While the above signs of physical abuse are visible to outsiders, other signs of physical abuse may be more subtle. The less obvious signs may include:

  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Vague medical complaints such as chronic headaches, fatigue or stomach pain
  • Pelvic pain; vaginal or urinary tract infections
  • Unwanted pregnancy; lack of prenatal care
  • Sexual problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety, including panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Fearfulness
  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs

It’s important to remember that while these signs may indicate physical abuse, they may also indicate other problems in the victim’s life so it’s important not to jump to conclusions. However, if physical abuse is truly suspected, local authorities should be alerted by contacting the police or your county social services agency.

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