Domestic Violence. What is it? Well, there’s more to it than hitting, or fighting, or cussing or being mean. It’s more than all of these. It’s a chronic use and abuse of power. The abuser does whatever it takes – threats, intimidation, and physical violence – to get and maintain control of his or her partner.
Most people think “domestic violence” is something that happens to other
people, or on TV shows, but not to them or to people they know. I have had many clients who have come to see me for a consultation and had no idea that the way they were being treated in their relationship or marriage actually fit into the category of “domestic violence.”
Once we talk about what they are experiencing and what domestic violence actually is, I can see the light bulb go on. It’s a process for folks. When they’re able to take in this information and then apply it to their situation, they begin to see things from a different perspective. The goal is for them to get the courage and power they need to take steps to protect themselves and to make permanent changes.
The point is that anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. The violence can take many forms and can happen just occasionally or all the time. Domestic Violence is defined as behaviors used by one person to control another. It’s that simple. The abuse can be emotional, sexual, or physical. But the whole point of whatever the act is – is power and control – of one person over the other.
Here are some typical behaviors of abusers. They may do one, some, or all of these things to exert and maintain control over their partner. If you are experiencing any of these in your relationship with your spouse or partner, I encourage you to acknowledge what is going on and take steps to get help:
- Name-calling or putdowns – like you’re stupid; you’re ugly; you can’t do anything right, etc.
- Preventing you from contacting your family or friends – they may isolate you from the people most important in your life and tell you that your family is trying to break up your relationship, etc.
- Withholding or hiding money – you can’t go anywhere (like leave them!) if you don’t’ have money in your pocket or aren’t able to access bank accounts
- Preventing you from getting or keeping a job – many abusers want you at home and not out with other people in a workplace where you may be attracted to another, or another may be attracted to you
- Threatened or actual physical harm – abusers may threaten and intimidate with physical harm, and not ever actually put their hands on you, or they may push, shove, slap, hit, spit, etc., depending on how much control they feel the need to exert or how much control they feel are losing over you
- Sexual assault – being forced to engage in sexual activity against your will is domestic violence. No one has a right to your body but you, unless you consent
- Stalking – following you, showing up where you are unexpectedly (giving you the creeps!), listening to your phone calls, tracking you with a device on your car or tapping your phone
- Intimidation – Abusers like to use the fear factor. If you are behaving in a certain way around your partner out of fear of them, for whatever reason, that is intimidation. They are controlling your behavior by causing you to be afraid, even though it may be very subtle.
I hope this information has been helpful to you. If any of this rings true for you, please take steps to get help. It will only get worse. Remember, you are not alone. There is a huge boat full of folks just like you. So do whatever is necessary to share your story with others and get the support you need to get out of your situation. The sooner you take action, the better!
For immediate help call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).