In wake of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the numerous media conversations around sexual assault, let’s continue the conversation around what domestic violence actually is and why someone may stay in an abusive relationship.
What is abuse?
Abuse is when one partner attempts to gain AND maintain power and control over another partner. Many people can easily name and acknowledge physical abuse but frequently forget that domestic violence includes emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, reproductive abuse, technology abuse, psychological abuse, and spiritual abuse.
What are the different types of abuse?
- Emotional Abuse is any behavior intended to cause emotional harm including gaslighting, manipulation, threats, and/or isolating someone from social supports.
- Financial Abuse includes tactics used to control the finances of a partner. This includes (but not limited to) forbidding a partner to work, controlling access to bank accounts, controlling the way a partner spends their money.
- Sexual Abuse is any behavior used to control a partner in a sexual way which includes unwanted touching, rape/sexual assault, forcing someone into sex work, unwanted comments regarding their body.
- Verbal Abuse is any behavior used to cause harm with words including insults, name calling, and yelling.
- Reproductive Abuse is any behavior used to control a partners reproductive choices including pregnancy pressure, pregnancy coercion, and birth control sabotage etc.
- Technological Abuse is any behaviors used to control a partner through a technological means which includes stalking a person’s social media, tracking a partner, threatening to leak intimate photos or videos.
- Psychological Abuse includes behavior that is used to cause harm to a partners psychological state. This includes withholding one’s medication, creating psychologically damaging situations/repeating triggering situations.
- Spiritual Abuse includes attempting to control a partner under the guise of spiritual affiliation. For example, threatening a partner with hell and damnation if they leave the partnership, etc.
Why do people stay in abusive relationships?
1. Fear: Folks in abusive partnerships are most likely to be physically harmed and or killed when attempting to flee their abusive partners. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, on average THREE women are murdered EVERYDAY by a current or former partner.
2. Financial Dependence: You may depend on your partner financial and not have the financial means to flee your abusive partner.
3. Immigration Status: If your stability in this particular country is tied to your abusive partner, leaving may not be a viable option. Especially under our current political climate!
4. Homophobia/Transphobia: Abusive partners may use your identity to threaten to out you if you attempt to leave. This can look like threatening to tell your family, friends, coworkers, etc. because they are aware of the homophobia or transphobia you may experience.
5. Children: If you have a child(ren), you may believe it is best for the child(ren) to be raised with two parents who are together.
6. Lack of Support: Your partner may have isolated you from your friends and family; or your family pressures you to stay with your partner.
7. Self Blame: Your partner may blame you for their abusive behavior, saying you made them angry or that you did something to deserve it. You may also believe this.
8. Loyalty: Culturally or socially you may believe that staying with your partner is “the right thing to do” no matter what.
9. Denying/ Minimizing the Abuse: Your partner may deny being abusive or act as if it is not a big deal.
10. Hopelessness: You may also believe that all relationships are abusive and that you may never find a partner that will treat you better. Or that all of the relationships you’ve witnessed are abusive so why would yours be any different.
11. Afraid of Being Alone: You may feel nervous or worried about being without your partner, especially if you have become extremely dependent. This can be particularly impactful for folk who feel shame around being single at a certain age.
12. Low Self-esteem: You feel as though you deserve the abuse and that no one else will love you.
13. Gender Roles: We are socialized to believe that men are supposed to be in charge in relationships and can’t help being violent. We are also taught “real men” can’t be abused leading to an unlikelihood of them reporting. See how strict gender roles benefit no one?
Before you question someone’s reasoning behind staying in an abusive relationship, take a moment to remember this list.
Remember that any additional shame or blame has the potential to make leaving an abusive partner actually more difficult. Instead try to find ways to support if asked and hold space if needed.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence abuse and are looking for emergency support, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Therapy might also be a place to help you recover from domestic violence abuse. Check out our services at FreshPathNY.com for more information about individual and couples work.
© Copyright 2018 FreshPathNY.com. All rights reserved. Contributed by Kenya Crawford, MHC