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6 signs your friend is in a relationship with a man like Simon Gittany.

Nobody can stop talking about convicted killer Simon Gittany’s new girlfriend, Rachelle Louise.

Gittany will spend the next 18 years in jail for the murder of his former partner, Lisa Harnum, whom he threw from a 15-story Sydney apartment.

That’s 18 years without parole as punishment for taking a life. But that sentence has also saved a life: Rachelle Louise’s.

As long as Simon Gittany is behind bars, Rachelle Louise is safe. She has that time to get herself out of an emotionally abusive relationship with a dangerous man. And I truly hope that’s exactly what she does.

We all watched Rachelle Louise’s exclusive interview with Channel 7 on Sunday Night in horror. We couldn’t look away as she fiercely defended her man, his innocence, and even his controlling behaviour.

She’s clearly been deftly manipulated by a controlling, calculating man with an eye for beautiful brunettes. Watching Rachelle Louise speak, so many of us could tell that she’s trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship. But would we know if our own friend was trapped in a similar situation?

We consulted experts in domestic abuse, self-help, and women’s protection to bring you some simple, important signs that someone you know could be in the throes of an emotionally abusive relationship.

Warning signs your friend is in an emotionally abusive relationship

There’s no flawless way to spot an abusive relationship, especially when the scars are emotional. But, please, use these warning signs as a decent start.

If a friend is showing any  of these, it might be time to help her develop a safe exit plan.

Obviously, none of these in isolation is enough to prove that a friend is the victim of an emotional abuser. But if her behaviour matches any of these, consider how you might gather the compassion and courage to broach the subject with her.

You could save her from a fate like Lisa Harnum’s.

1. Her confidence is bruised.

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An emotionally destructive person will tease, criticise and humiliate their partner until they’re a shadow of their former vivacious self. Your friend might be anxious, jumpy, or so deep in self-doubt that it changes the way she speaks and behaves around you, her trusted buddy.

2. She has to ask permission to leave the house.

An emotionally destructive relationship makes a cosy home into a prison. If your friend doesn’t have free reign around her own home, lives under surveillance there, or can’t leave without being granted permission, that should be a huge red flag. Happy couples are autonomous.

3. She uses words like “jealous” and “controlling” to describe her partner.

It’s very rare that your friend will come out and say, “I think I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship”. That’s why you have to look out for subtler hints she drops in her choice of words. Saying he’s “jealous and controlling” could be the closest she’ll come to admitting something’s wrong.

4. She cancels plans with you at short notice, without explanation. 

An abusive partner likes to keep their victim on a short leash, constantly reminding her that she belongs to him. Forcing a woman to cancel her social plans at last minute is a swift way to remind her that she belongs to him.

5. Her partner controls what she’s allowed to wear. 

A free, emotionally independent woman can wear what she wants. A trapped woman has to follow rigid rules about what clothes she can wear in public, what make-up she can wear, and how she looks outside her home.

6. She cuts phone conversations short when her partner comes into the room. 

This could mean her partner is either listening to her calls or monitoring her contact with other people. The emotional abuser wants to keep his partner captive and all to himself, so if she wraps up a conversation abruptly when he ‘catches’ her talking to other people.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can ring the Domestic Violence Line for help on 1800 656 463 (TTY 1800 671 442). The Domestic Violence Line is a statewide free-call number and is available 24 hours, seven days a week.

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