By Keshia Hilton • December 22, 2015•Features, Guest Bloggers and Profiles of Women in the Law
Domestic violence refers to physical violence that emanates from domestic abuse. Domestic abuse occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dictate over and control the other person. This is also known as spousal abuse.
Domestic violence and abuse are typically used by someone when they want to gain and sustain control over all aspects of their partner's life. Achieving this could mean using fear, shame, guilt, and intimidation tactics to establish their dominance over their partner. The abuser may also go the extent of making threats and harming people.
The common notion surrounding domestic violence is that only women become victims of it. However, it isn't limited to a particular population. As per the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, "1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime." Further, it has also been reported that, "1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime."
While women are more prone to becoming victims, men are also abused. The abuse may not necessarily be physical, but also be verbal or emotional. Domestic violence can occur irrespective of age, ethnicity, and economic status. It can happen among heterosexual as well as in homosexual couples.
Whatever the case may be, abusive behavior should not be tolerated. It is important that the victim gets help and feels safe and respected. Recognizing abuse is the foremost step towards this.
Signs of an Abusive Relationship
In order to get out of an abusive relationship, you need to first acknowledge that you are in one. You may feel that your partner overreacts to situations sometimes, but isn't that bad. However, being in denial will not help you in any way.
Domestic abuse often begins with threats, escalates to verbal abuse, and manifests itself in violence. Physical harm is the most obvious danger, but the emotional and psychological consequences can also be extremely punishing.
The signs of an abusive relationship are several, with the most obvious one being fear of your partner. If you feel like your partner is constantly and fanatically watching everything you say or do, it is likely that you're in an unhealthy and abusive relationship. This especially holds true if your partner is always vilifying you or trying to control you, resulting in feelings of self-hatred, helplessness, and desperation.
Here are a few other prominent signs that an abusive partner typical shows:
- Always keeping tabs on your whereabouts, who you are with, and what you do.
- Trying to control where you go, who you meet and getting furious if you defy them.
- Accusing you of being unfaithful without reason and trying to make you feel guilty.
- Isolating you from your near and dear ones, often by behaving rudely with them. Threatening to use violence against your loved ones.
- Belittling you in public and/or private by denigrating your aptitude and the way you look, think and feel.
- Calling you derogatory names.
- Constantly scrutinizing your every move and comparing you unfavorably with others to cripple your self esteem.
- Blaming you for anything and everything that goes wrong and holding you responsible for their violent behavior.
- Shouting and destroying things valuable to you.
- Hitting, grabbing, pushing, shoving, forcing you to have sex or do things you don't want to.
If you've been subjected to any or all of the above, you may be in an abusive relationship. It is suggested that you do not waste time in getting help. You can take the following steps:
1. Opt Out
Even if you love your partner and believe that they can change for the better, you need to get away from the abuse at their hands. Make up your mind to end the abusive relationship. Know that anyone who inflicts violence on their partner has serious psychological issues and needs professional intervention. Such a person will not change for anyone, and by staying with them, you're only enabling their behavior.
2. Get Help and Support
As soon as possible, contact the domestic violence program nearest to you. They're trained in helping victims of domestic violence and can provide you with the necessary emotional support, counselling and even safe-housing in case of an emergency. Get in touch with them from someone else's phone or computer, or buy a new cell phone if you suspect your partner of monitoring your calls and Internet use.
If you plan to confront and tell your partner that you are leaving them, ask a trusted friend or relative to be present with you to support you. It is possible that the abuser will react to your decision with violence. If you live together, wait until they are away from home before packing your bags and moving out.
3. Take Precautionary Measures
As a precautionary measure, change your online user names and passwords on a safe computer (at a friend's place or at the library) if you think your abusive partner has installed spyware to procure your personal information.
Doing so is important to prevent him from using your bank account details, credit card information and social media profiles to keep track of your whereabouts after you leave them.
4. Get Proof of Abuse
If you plan to ask for divorce or full custody of your kids, you're going to have to go to court and produce enough relevant proof of abuse at the hands of your partner. Take pictures or record physical abuse if you can, save abusive emails and messages, talk to your doctor and call the authorities when you suffer abuse.
Further, gather copies of all your important documents and keep them somewhere safe. You don't want your personal records and information ending up in their possession, especially once you've left.
5. Be Ready for Emergencies
It is suggested that you keep an emergency bag ready and hidden away in case things spiral out of control and you have to flee in a hurry. Your bag should contain clothes for you and your kids, sufficient amount of money, key to the car, and a spare cell phone. Be prepared, should be your mantra.
6. Know Where to Run
It is important that you only leave an abusive partner, but also know where you will be going once you move out. Plan this in advance as well. If you're planning to stay with a relative or friend, make sure you have a key to their home. If you're leaving in an emergency, you'll need a way to get inside if they aren't home. So have a spare key ready.
7. Get a Restraining Order
If the situation with your abusive partner becomes grim, you can get a restraining order. Of course, you will need to have the necessary documents and evidence in place to be able to do so.
You can also file a case of domestic battery against them with the help of an experienced lawyer. Make sure to hire a competent lawyer in your vicinity for quick action. If you don't have a lawyer, look online to know your options. For example, if you reside in DuPage County in Illinois, search ‘DuPage County Domestic Violence Attorney' and you should have several results before you.
8. Consider Counseling
Being in a violent relationship can take a toll on your mental health. Consider counselling or therapy to get over the mental hurt and pain. Joining a support group of survivors of domestic abuse will help you deal with pent up emotions and distressing memories, and get your life back on track.
Nobody deserves to be in an abusive relationship, and if you are in one, you should take active measures to get out of it before you or someone you love gets hurt. Remember, abusers have a way of controlling/manipulating their victims. It is, therefore, necessary to recognize the signs of abuse and acknowledge them because only then will you be able to take steps to put a stop to it. The above tips should help you understand whether or not you're in an abusive relationship and steer you in the right direction.