Skip to content

    Health & Sex

    Font Size

    He Hit You Once -- Should You Be Worried?

    Our mental health expert explains why even a one-time smack can be a symptom of a more serious problem.
    WebMD Magazine

    In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our May 2010 issue, we turned to WebMD's mental health expert, Patricia Farrell, PhD, to discuss at what point being hit in a relationship counts as abuse.

    Q. During an argument last night, my husband hit me for the first time. When it's just one time, is that physical abuse?

    A. It certainly is. Any time one person hits another person, it's considered assault, which is physical abuse.

    You may think this is the first time you've been abused, but often other types of abuse precede physically striking out. Think back on your history with your husband. Does he frequently criticize you? Call you names? Prevent you from seeing friends or family? Has he humiliated you in public? Blocked your exit from a room? Denied that his actions are serious -- or implied that you're just being "oversensitive"? All of these actions are emotionally (and verbally) abusive --and each of them can be a precursor to physical abuse.

    In addition, according to a number of studies, once a man has been violent, there's a chance he'll become violent again -- maybe even more violent. That's why I highly recommend couples therapy (for you and your husband) and individual therapy (for you). But if you at any time feel unsafe, you should leave immediately and notify the authorities.

    You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help finding support groups, counseling, and other resources in your area: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

    Reviewed on April 22, 2010

    Today on WebMD

    couple not communicating
    How to tell when you're in one.
    couple face to face
    Get your love life back on track.
    couple having an argument
    Turn spats into solutions
    couple in argument
    When to call it quits.
    Life Cycle of a Penis
    HIV Myth Facts
    How Healthy is Your Sex Life
    Couple in bed
    6 Tips For Teens
    Close-up of young man
    screening tests for men
    HPV Vaccine Future