Domestic Violence Is Unacceptable
Please, please, as you enter a relationship, remember who you are and what you deserve. You must use your voice as powerful protection against the harm that comes from dangerous relationships. The old expression “he/she completes me,” is a lie. The work is to complete yourself first so that you enter relationships whole, healthy, and safe.
The onset of domestic violence is not a tsunami. Rather, it is subtle in its initial phases. It is a slow erosion of who you are so that over time you lose sight of your own identity. The erosion results in a total eclipse of self. The themes like nobody else will ever love you, you are no good, and you belong to me, are all lines from the script that absorb every bit of your being until there is nothing of you left.
Listen To Your Intuition
Often you know you are on dangerous ground long before any violence happens. This is the velvet trap. To be lured in by the promises of somebody treating you well, buying you things, talking to you sweetly and seeming to protect you. It is a fine line between protection and control.
And that is what domestic violence or intimate partner violence is all about. Power and Control. You lose yours while your partner increases theirs. Domestic violence is defined as willful intimidation and/or abusive behavior as part of systemic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical and sexual violence and emotional abuse (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). It also includes intimidation, manipulation, isolation, and fear.
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Your partner cannot reveal who they are too quickly. It isn’t like they can introduce themselves and then physically harm you. That would be too obvious. Instead, there is a gradual indoctrination. It may be that your partner is posing as needy and wanting your care and support. It may feel good to be there for them. Maybe you feel you can change them or help them. Bottom line is you can’t. Look for the signs. Gather the data. There are always signs.
The signs include, but are not limited to:
- Limiting time with friends and family because it takes you away from them
- Uses jealousy as proof of loving you so much
- Blames you for things that are not in your control (why did someone else look at you like that?)
- Telling you that nobody will ever love you the way they do
- Accusing you of overreacting and disregarding your feelings as ridiculous (gaslighting)
- Encouraging you to use substances with them
- Demanding sexual activity that you are uncomfortable with or object to. If you say no it is rape, even when you are in a relationship
- Threatening suicide if you leave
- Showing up at your work or other places unexpectedly
- Leaving you without transportation.
- Joking at your expense followed by “I was only kidding” or “can’t you take a joke?”
- Reminding you that you never do anything right
- Reading your mail or emails, or keeping them from you
- Threats of harm to you, your children, or pets
- Threats to reveal your secrets or expose what was personal between the two of you
- Limiting your financial independence
- Taking control of the money
- Giving you an allowance
- Being secretive about finances
- Limiting your access to money
- Taking your bank or credit cards
And the physical harm has not yet begun. While not all abuse is necessarily physical, emotional abuse can escalate to physical violence.
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Recognizing the Danger Can Be Difficult
Pregnancy is a particularly dangerous time for women in abusive relationships. Your attention may shift to the baby instead of your partner. There may be anger at the added expense or time needed for doctor’s appointments. Pregnant women who visit emergency rooms are often there because of physical harm caused by a partner.
An additional danger to consider is whether there are guns in the house. Guns increase the threat significantly.
The biggest challenge is not talking yourself out of the reality that you are in danger. Don’t second guess your gut reaction. Trust your knowing. End it and get out. It is hard to talk about because shame goes hand and hand with DV. Some may not believe you. You may have limited options regarding where you can go to live. You can find numerous excuses to stay but all of them are life threatening.
The longer you stay the harder it is to leave. The downward spiral gets tighter and tighter. Learned helplessness is a term that describes the inability to walk out the door.
“When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change.”
Nuvvula S. Learned helplessness.
But there are opportunities. Small steps pave your way out. You can consider the following:
- Write down all important phone numbers in case you do not have access to your phone
- Write down important numbers like insurance, social security, credit cards and bank accounts
- Pack a small bag with essential items if you must leave quickly. Include medications. Stash it with a trusted friend or at work if you cannot keep it in the house.
- Keep knives off the counters and remove any objects that could be weapons
- Give a code word to a trusted friend that you can text if in imminent danger
- Have 911 on speed dial
- Change your routine like how you go to and from work or the time of various appointments
Reach Out, Your Safety Depends on It
Domestic violence services are available in almost every community. If you are living this life, you already know it is never too late and it is never soon enough.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
24-hour toll-free information and referrals from anywhere in the U.S.
Phone: (800) 799-SAFE (800) 799-7233. If you are in need of a more discreet method of contact you can text START to 88788 and someone will respond quickly.
Marilyn facilitates a domestic violence batterers intervention group for Lancaster County Courts, this is a subject very close to her heart.