Recognizing Signs of Relationship Abuse

As a cosmetology school, Bella Institute is in a unique position to educate up-and-coming salon professionals on how to recognize signs of abuse. Salon professionals often become personally invested in their clients and colleagues because of the intimate nature of their work. We know that with proper training on how to safely refer victims to help, our graduates are invaluable and influential community partners in the fight against domestic abuse.

Being able to relate personally to a client is an important part of starting these difficult conversations. Many young people haven’t encountered domestic abuse because they haven’t had a relationship where they live with their partner. A more relatable term for young adults is “dating violence.” Nearly 1.5 million high school students across the nation have experienced physical abuse from a dating partner. The rape culture in colleges and universities is no secret; 43% of dating college women have reported experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors. In short, this problem is too common to brush off.

Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 tend to experience the highest rate of partner violence. The statistics for this age group are almost triple the national average. The lack of awareness is just the tip of the iceberg – college students are not properly equipped to handle dating abuse. Approximately 57% say that dating abuse is difficult to identify, and 58% say that they don’t even know how to help somebody who is experiencing it. The “obvious” solution to this epidemic is for these young women to go to their parents, but unfortunately, 81% of parents believe that teen dating violence is not an issue and admit that they don’t know how to recognize the signs.

What is dating abuse? It is defined as, “a pattern of destructive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.” ( Since no relationship is the same, it is hard to tell when certain behaviors cross the line from healthy to unhealthy.

These warning signs can help you figure out if your relationship is headed in the direction of abuse:

  • Making false or unfair accusations
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Mood swings
  • Checking your cell phone or personal email without permission
  • Explosive temper
  • Strong jealousy or insecurity
  • Physically harming you in any way – just because it doesn’t leave a mark doesn’t mean it’s not abuse.
  • Possessiveness
  • Pressuring or forcing you to have sexual relations
  • Telling you what to do

These signs are not always recognizable just by looking at somebody’s outward appearance. In extremely abusive relationships, salons and spas are often one of the only places that victims can go without their partner. These visits to the salon happen on a regular basis where victims can begin to trust their salon professional with the intimate details of their life. That makes the conversations that beauty industry pros have with their clients even more important because without their partners keeping a close eye, they can speak more freely.

If you have a friend, family member, client, or coworker in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, the best thing you can do is to be supportive and listen without judgement. Leaving a relationship is never easy, no matter how unhealthy it may be. There are options available for support like Love Is Respect and The Domestic Violence Hotline. This quiz is a quick way to assess your relationship if you aren’t sure it might be heading in the direction of abuse.

Do your part and speak out against abuse. Intervening using the right resources can have a huge impact, and may be the difference between safety and danger, life and death.