October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Three out of four Americans know someone who has been abused or has been a victim of domestic violence. The effects of abuse have a profound impact on survivors and victims. Domestic Violence Awareness Month aims to unite advocates and educate those across the nation in an effort to put an end to domestic violence. If you or someone you know is being abused, do not stay silent. It is time to break the cycle.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence affects millions of men and women each year no matter what their background, race, religion, or status is. Domestic violence is known as a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain control and power over another partner in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence includes behaviors that physically harm, cause fear, or prevent a partner from doing what they want. Some forms of domestic violence include:
Physical Abuse: Hitting, biting, punching, pinching, pushing, hair pulling, burning, cutting, denying someone medical treatment, or forcing someone to use drugs or drink alcohol.
Emotional Abuse: Involves invalidating the victim’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Emotional abuse consists of name-calling, criticism, constantly threatening to leave the relationship, and gaslighting.
Economic Abuse: This form of abuse is used to maintain financial control over a partner by withholding funds or prohibiting their partner from going to work.
Psychological Abuse: The abuser will invoke fear in their partner through intimidation by threatening to hurt him or herself, pets, children, destroying property, and isolating the victim from loved ones, and family.
Sexual Abuse: This occurs when the abuser coerces the victim into having sexual contact or behaviors without the victim’s consent.
Stalking: This includes following, spying, harassing, showing up at a victim’s work, leaving written messages, making phone calls to a victim, and emailing them repeatedly.
Warning Signs of Abuse
There are several red flags that a relationship is toxic and could become abusive. No two relationships are the same. Unhealthy aspects of one relationship may be considered as abuse in another. Look for these common red flags in an abusive relationship:
- Extreme jealousy and insecurity
- Explosive temper
- Constant mood swings towards you
- Telling someone what they can and cannot do
- Inflicting pain on you
- Making false accusations
- Isolation from family or friends
- Constant put downs
- Checking cellphones, emails, or other social networks without permission
Survivors of domestic violence face ongoing challenges after enduring abuse. Although trauma varies person to person, there are many common mental and emotional effects that domestic violence has on a victim:
- Post-traumatic stress, flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety
- Low self-esteem and questioning self-worth
- Suicidal thoughts
- Alcohol and drug use
- Feeling unworthy
- Inability to trust
Leaving an Abusive Relationship
Outsiders may wonder why a victim of abuse does not leave the relationship. However, leaving can be difficult for many reasons. On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good. Leaving is a highly dangerous time for a victim of abuse because they are taking control away from their abuser, which can cause them to retaliate. Here are some common reasons people tend to stay in abusive relationships:
- Embarrassment or shame
- Low self-esteem
- Believing abuse is normal
- Lack of money
According to a study by the University of Illinois, there are five stages that are identified in leaving an abusive relationship. They include:
Stage 1 and 2: A person starts to not care about their abuser anymore and emotionally disconnects from the relationship.
Stage 3: The victim starts to prepare to leave the relationship and notices the effect of abuse on themselves.
Stage 4: Many abuse victims need clarity, so they make attempts to go back to their relationship. Victims want to feel emotionally and physically connected again with their abusers.
Stage 5: The victim leaves for good.
If you are being abused by your partner you may be scared to reach out for help or blame yourself for being abused. However, it is never your fault and abuse is never okay, no matter the circumstance. Like any other relationship, healing takes time. A victim must allow themselves time to grieve. It is important to rediscover hobbies and activities that make you happy during this time.
Creating a Safety Plan
If you are experiencing abuse in your relationship, it is important to create a safety plan when planning to leave the relationship. Ending the relationship is the most vulnerable time for an abuse victim. If you are concerned for your safety, it is a good idea to document abuse and threats. Documented incidents can help if a restraining order is needed. Here are some options for safe ways to communicate:
- Find a trusted loved one or neighbor who will let you use their phone
- Find a community phone at a library or another public place that provides a safe way to reach out for help
- Consider getting a secret phone that your partner does not know about. You can leave this phone at work or with a trusted friend or family member
- If your abusive partner cuts your phone service, you still have access to 911 in case of an emergency.
Are you hurting your partner?
It is sometimes difficult to recognize the behaviors you are exhibiting that may be physically or mentally harming your partner. Acknowledging your behavior is the first step in seeking help. How do you act towards your partner? Asking these questions to yourself may help you determine if you should seek help. Do you….
- Get angry or insecure about your partner’s relationship with friends, family, or coworker?
- Get angry when your partner does not act in the way you want them to or do what you want them to?
- Frequently call or text to check up on your partner or have them check in with you?
- Express your anger verbally by raising your voice or name-calling?
- Express your anger by threatening to hurt your partner or psychically hurting your partner?
- Blow up in anger over small mistakes your partner makes?
- Blame your anger on your partner’s actions or drugs and alcohol
Understanding your partners body language and cues can also help determine if your behavior is abusive towards them. Some common ways your partner may react are:
- Acting nervous around you
- Acting afraid of you
- Cringe or move away when you are angry
- Seem scared to speak up
- Restrict their interaction with friends, family, and coworkers
If you believe that you are abusive towards your partner there are many options for seeking help. It is possible to change but requires work and a recovery plan with a licensed therapist.
Is Your Relationship Healthy?
Healthy relationships include equality and respect. Remember, everyone deserves to feel respected and safe in their relationships. A healthy relationship should include the following:
- Communication- Listing to one another and talking openly about problems and finding healthy ways to solve them. Respecting one another’s opinions.
- Respect– Valuing one another
- Trust– Believing what your partner tells you. You do not need to “prove” each other’s trustworthiness.
- Honesty- You are honest with one another, but you can still maintain some level of privacy.
- Equality- You make decisions together and hold each other to the same standard.
- Personal Time– You enjoy spending time together, with others, or alone. You respect each other’s space.
Conflict in Relationships
It is important to understand that conflict is inevitable in every relationship, no matter who you are with. When in a healthy relationship, it indicates that a person relates to their partner. Remember, you have a right to disagree with your partner. It is important that when disagreements arise, you communicate in a healthy way that allows you to understand one another. Conflicts should never turn into personal attacks or lower a person’s self-esteem. If your arguments stem from the following problems, it could be a sign of an abusive relationship:
- They think you are cheating or untrustworthy
- You are trying to study, or work and they want your attention
- They check your phone and disapprove of what is on there
- You chose to spend time with others instead of them
Reach Out to Harmony Bay Wellness
Healing from an abusive relationship requires a lot of emotional support from friends, family, and outside recourses. If you need help healing from an abusive relationship, reach out to Harmony Bay Wellness today. Our licensed therapist can help create a treatment plan and provide a healthy environment for you to heal. Contact Harmony Bay Wellness in Laurel Springs, NJ by calling us at 855.765.6399.
For immediate help, call the domestic violence hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE.
If you are experiencing an emergency, contact 911 immediately.
Nguyen, Brian. “Eliminate That Seven Times Statistic – Break the Silence Against DomesticViolence.” Breakthesilencedv.Org, 15 Jan. 2017, breakthesilencedv.org/beat-that-seven-times-statistic/.
“The National Domestic Violence Hotline.” The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 8 Oct. 2018, www.thehotline.org/.
“About Loveisrespect.Org.” Loveisrespect.Org, 2015, www.loveisrespect.org/about/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2020.