It is unfathomable to most people that the person they are dating or in love with could possibly harm them. More often than not it is friends or family who initially see something. They might tell you that something is ‘not right’ in the relationship. It is estimated that more than 60% of relationships have some form of abuse.
American Institute of Domestic Violence reports:
o 85-95% of all domestic violence survivors are female
o Over 50,000 women are stalked by an intimate partner each year
o 5.3 million women are abused each year
o 1,232 women are killed each year by an intimate partner
o Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women
o Women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know rather than by a stranger
Who is at risk for domestic violence?
o Women ages 20 to 34 and increasingly, adolescent girls
o Women who abuse alcohol or other drugs or whose partners do
o Women who are poor are at greater risk, because they seldom have resources
o Battered women increase their risk for murder when they are in the process of escape or are hunted down and murdered after leaving. (New York City Department of Health)
No matter the rate of violence or who initiates the violence, women are 7 to 10 times more likely to be injured in acts of intimate violence than are men. (Bureau of Justice Statistics).
There are common indicators of potential physical abusers. Instead of negating what others tell you and your thoughts, you need to stop and look at your partner’s actions. Answer the following questions about your partner and your relationship.
o Are you discouraged or coerced about talking with family, friends or co-workers?
o Is he/she jealous of your time, your career, other people in your life?
o Does your partner insist on going everywhere with you?
o Do you have to discuss activity plans, people you will be with, and why you are going to do something with him/her before you can do them?
o Does he/she play mind games?
o Is he/she jealous of your success?
o Does he/she act negatively to authority figures?
o Does he/she believe that the man makes the decisions?
o Does he/she call you names?
o Does he/she belittle or talk down to you?
o Does he/she blame you if something goes awry?
o Does he/she negate your opinion, feelings, ideas, etc?
o Does he/she get violent when he/she drinks alcohol?
o Does he/she come from an abusive or highly dysfunctional home? While not everyone is a potential abuser if they come from an abusive or highly dysfunctional family, there is reason to consider their long-term behavior versus their current ‘win-you-over’ behavior. Signals of an abusive person can be extremely subtle. Such as: Mini-bursts of anger; Frequent swearing; Disregard for other’s rights; Frequent negativity; Mind games; Hostility toward authority; Casting murder and/or abuse as–she/he deserved it.
o Does he/she use shame and/or guilt to control a situation or get his/her way?
o Does he/she lose his/her temper and throw things, hit objects or abuse animals?
o Does he/she down-play any act of aggression as being a minor incident?
o Does he/she characterize domestic violence as an exaggeration or myth?
These indicators are more than indicators–they are varying degrees of emotional abuse and a precursor to possible physical abuse.
Those who are in an abusive relationship seldom consider they are a part of the equation. In other words it takes two people to create domestic violence. How do you fit the equation? Answer the following questions.
o Do you have low self-esteem? People who abuse others seek out people who they deem are easy to control, manipulate and create power-over. Low self-esteem sets the stage.
o Did you come from an abusive or highly dysfunctional home? As noted above being from an abusive or highly dysfunctional family does not mean you will attract an abuser, however, the likelihood is significantly high. Growing up in an abusive and/or dysfunctional home fosters the imprint that the highs and lows of abuse is equated to love–after all the people [your parents], who claimed to love you the most emotionally and physically hurt you. And although you didn’t like it; you then seek out someone who will give you the same ‘kind of love’–the kind that hurts–because it feels so good between the hurting.
o Do you believe in traditional, stereotypical relationship roles?
o Do you accept responsibility for disagreements or arguments–other than your own behavior?
o Do you accept responsibility for his/her behavior to keep the peace?
o Do you walk around on egg shells to keep the peace?
o Do you accept the myths about domestic violence?
o Do you tell yourself–“I can handle it, its not that bad.”
o Do you feel guilty if he/she becomes enraged or jealous?
o Do you allow yourself to be controlled because you believe the person would not do it if they didn’t love you?
o Do you believe jealousy is proof of love?
o Do you believe some abuse is par for the course in an intimate relationship?
These indicators are emotional, but keep in mind that emotional abuse precedes physical abuse without fail. The emotional abuse is simply a warning sign and if you heed the warning sign(s) you can protect yourself by avoiding being in the relationship. If you are already in the relationship, because you missed the warning signs (there are warning signs without fail), you will be able to heed them and get out before they escalate to physical abuse.
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions, you are in a relationship that could progress to physical abuse unless there is immediate and effective professional intervention. You both need to seek separate professional guidance. Accepting that you play a part in the abuse equation and take responsibility for your part is the first step to reconciliation–either resolving the issues or parting company. Likewise, the other person needs to recognize that their behavior is not acceptable and you need to accept you will enable him/her to continue to abuse you if you continue to stay in the relationship as is.