When Olivia and Braden first met, he swept her off her feet. They had a whirlwind romance, quickly moving in together and marrying. It wasn’t long before he started abusing her, which Olivia initially interpreted as misguided expressions of love. Immediately after harming her, Braden behaved with extreme care. Until something angered him again. For years, until she finally fled, Braden’s escalating violence made Olivia feel fearful, embarrassed, and stuck.
Like one in three women and one in four men in the United States, Olivia experienced intimate partner violence (likely the most frequently perpetrated and least often reported crime). It took Olivia a long time to leave the relationship because intimate partner violence is inherently confusing – it is disconcerting to believe that the person one loves most is causing her harm.
The earlier a person realizes they are in a relationship with an abusive partner, the easier it is to leave it. Potential abusers follow patterns. Here are a few red flags:
Love Bombing: The person falls fast and wants the relationship to be serious, fast. Sometimes this comes with excessive gifts, affection, or compliments. Love bombing is problematic because it short circuits the “getting-to-know-you” process and creates a power imbalance.
Outsized Anger: The person seems to have a hot temper, which, while not directed initially at you, seems to scattershot hit people around them.
Pushing Boundaries: Potential abusers always want a little more than you’re willing to give. Maybe it’s more physical intimacy, and maybe it’s more time on the phone. It can be anything, really. The red flag has less to do with the substance of the boundary but that you set a limit, and they disregard it.
If Olivia had realized Braden was abusive the first time he hurt her and that the situation would only escalate, she could have protected herself and avoided years of physical and emotional pain.
If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, here are some further resources:
Text “START” to 88788
P.S. – I (somehow) wrote this entire post without giving away a big, humanizing, whole-hearted, and important twist that will shift how you see the characters and the novel. It’s an essential read.