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This Simple Test Could Help Women Avoid Potentially Abusive Partners

Those of us in long-term relationships can be thankful if we've managed to find someone who is at least decent and considerate and caring, because all too often, that's not how it turns out. There are people who were just trying to find love suffering right now, and that's not right.

So here's hoping a tip from a domestic violence expert can help some people avoid dangerous situations in the future.

Abusive relationships don't tend to start out that way.

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They begin like all relationships, with flirting and attraction and romance. But, slowly, gradually, things deteriorate, and all too often, abusive behavior escalates.

So how can you possibly know ahead of time if your potential partner is going to turn into a monster?

Rob Andrew, a domestic violence counselor in Australia, has been listening to women's stories for more than 20 years.

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He's heard countless tales of relationships starting out promising before turning dangerous.

But it was a conversation with a colleague that led him to a discovery that might just be able to help other women avoid ending up with an abusive partner.

"A colleague of mine, many years ago, asked me why it always took her so long to see a man's true colors," Rob said.

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"I asked her to explain and she told me how the man she was in a new relationship with had blown up at her after she'd had to cancel on a date as she was feeling unwell," he explained to Australia's ABC News. "We unpacked this together and realized it was the first time she'd said no."

That's how the 'No Test' was born.

"The No Test is basically to watch out for the way your partner responds the first time you change your mind or say no," Rob said.

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There's one big reaction to pay attention to. "While expressing disappointment is okay, it's not the same as annoying," Rob said. "Annoyed is 'how dare you,' a sign of ownership or entitlement."

That should obviously be a red flag, and Rob has seen the No Test work before.

"A lot of the women who will present to services will see themselves as part of the problem," he explained.

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"They'll ask themselves why they're always attracted to abusive men, blame themselves for not being assertive enough, blame themselves for pushing their partner's buttons, causing their anger.

"With the No Test, we're not trying to give women knowledge that they didn't already know, but when they see it in black and white in front of them like that, they realize they of course have the right to say no, that they aren't to blame."

Of course, getting out of an abusive relationship is never easy.

"The only person who can stop the abuse is the person who is doing the abusing," Rob said. To help the women he talks with, Rob asks them how they've managed to cope and survive. "When they start realizing the ways in which they've resisted, how they've held onto hope and dignity, their eyes light up. I call it repositioning.

"We can't stop the man from abusing them, but if we help the woman to have a different identity description of herself, to start recognizing these things, then it's amazingly helpful to them."

Rob also works with men who have been abusive and want help.

"People have different ways of thinking about this but I see it as an attitudinal problem," he said. "So what we're trying to do with the men is to expose the attitudes that they have, look at where those attitudes take them and ask them if that's the sort of man they want to be in a relationship. Most often they'll say it's not, [that] they're not proud of themselves."

Rob does recognize that men can be the victims of domestic abuse as well.

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"We're not trying to paint women as angels and men [as] the devil," he said. However, he noted that statistically speaking, "men being abusive to women is far more serious.

"I hear a lot of people saying how it's so hard for men now, it's all so confusing. It's very easy to be a man. Just be polite and respectful to people, it's not that difficult really. But in saying that, we are to some extent dealing with 2,000 years of history of women being a second-class citizen. That's the nut of the problem and we've got to keep chipping away at it."

h/t ABC News