This past week has brought up some feelings in me. After hearing the news that a famous pop star is going to be forced to continue working with her abuser, I did the worst thing possible by looking on the internet to see how the world would react to the topic of domestic abuse. Many comments were quite supportive, as one would expect, but other comments ranged from nasty to downright shocking. One comment made my blood boil, “Any woman who lets a person abuse her is weak.” This is not true. In fact, domestic abuse is extremely common throughout the world, as more than 20,000 people in the US report domestic violence a day (ncadv.org). We’re use to hearing about physical and sexual violence against women and children, but there is still so much that many people simply aren’t informed on. With that said, I decided to shine a light on the topic, debunk some myths, and offer information that may help someone going through domestic abuse.
What is it?
Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation (Wikipedia).
“Physical violence is the only form of abuse”,
Along with sexual violence, there are many forms of abuse. One of the most common is psychological abuse, which is defined as a person subjecting or exposing another to behavior that may result in mental/emotional trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These methods include; emotional and economic manipulation(threats, yelling, blackmailing), isolation and neglect. Children are usually victims of this form, but 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience such abuse from their spouse in their lifetime.
“Only women can be abused”
One of the biggest misconceptions is that men can’t be abused. As stated above, 1 in 7 men experienced abuse from a partner in their lifetime. But because of lack of support (there are very few battered men’s shelters), most men remain silent.
“Abusers go to jail”
This is not always true. Many times, one has to prove that abuse is taking place, and it’s hard to detect non-physical abuse in a person, and there isn’t much that the police can do, since “being mean” is technically not illegal. In many situations, the police have been known not to believe the victim. These two facts alone, prevent many victims from even reporting abuse.
“You have the right to fight back”
It is not recommended that a victim should fight back unless they are sure they can defend themselves. Many abusers are known to actual file assault charges against the victim and police will almost always arrest the aggressor (women are rarely named the aggressor in these situations).
“If I were him/her, I’d just leave”
It’s not always easy to just leave an abuser. Many times there are children involved, victims are financially dependent, and in some states they can face prosecution for just taking the children. It can be tough to leave sometimes, especially if the victim is isolated from the outside world.
There are always red flags, the sooner you identify them, the less likely you are to find yourself in an abusive relationship. Here are a few warning signs to look for in an abuser:
Subliminal control- deciding how you are to look, dress and act, under the guise of “trying to help” without your consent. Many abusers won’t prey on someone who can think for them self and usually go for those who lack confidence.
Isolation- it usually starts with them disliking you going out with your friends, then gradually turning into them alienating you away from friends, family, even work/school. The objective of an abuser is to have you completely dependent on them.
Blaming you- the abuser will have you believe that everything wrong in their life and all the terrible things they do is because of you. Their choices are their own, and you have no control over what another individual chooses to do. Remember that.
If you find yourself or someone you know in an abusive, do not panic or down yourself. There is help available, and in addition to listing tips to getting you safely out, I will link some sources at the end of this post.
Find someone you can trust. If you have no friends or family, there are many people on domestic violence hotlines that are there to listen and even give you advice on what’s your best option to get out of the relationship.
Call your local shelter, see when they have a bed available for you.
Hold on to any evidence. Keep a journal of every incident, and take pictures of any physical abuse.
If you have children, plan a safe place for them to go and reassure them that their job is not to protect you, but to stay safe.
Plan a safe exit strategy. It is best to wait until your partner or spouse is away. Pack a small bag and include the following items:
Identification (ID cards, birth certificates, social security cards, medical records)
Clothes and shoes
Car title and marriage license
Store these items at a trusted friend’s house or hide somewhere away from your home where you’re sure no one will find it. For further assistance, please log onto The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
In my next post, I will be writing about what to expect after leaving an abusive relationship. Remember that love does not or should ever hurt.
Written by Tiara Letrice, Staff Writer, #mygirlsquad