It’s not about degree of injury. It’s about control.
The underlying cause of Domestic Violence is one person’s need to gain power over, and to control, the partner or family member — and the belief that there is a right to exercise and maintain that power and control by whatever means necessary. Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of social economic status, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.
While this often takes the form of violence, it almost always involves other methods as well. It is important to note that the absence of direct physical violence does not mean a lack of abuse. Abuse takes many forms.
What are signs of an abusive personality?
An abuser can seem charming at times. They will even pretend to be generous. But most of the time, they display jealousy, controlling behavior, quick involvement, unrealistic expectations, isolation, blames others for problems, blames others for feelings, hypersensitivity, cruelty to children and/or animals, unwanted use of force in sex, verbal abuse, two very different personalities, past battering, threats of violence, breaking or striking objects, any force during an argument.
Don’t be fooled by displays of kindness. That’s a form of control. Know the signs of abuse, and get help getting away.
Domestic Violence Awareness
Every year, more than 10 million Americans suffer domestic abuse and intimate partner violence.
85% of these are women.
You’re not to blame, you’re not alone, and you never have to be.
Types of Abuse
Domestic Abuse exists in many forms
The degree of visible injury is not what defines an act as abusive. It is the existence of the behavior itself and the resulting atmosphere of power and control that defines this.
Isolation and Restricting Freedom
One of the most common forms of abuse is isolation and freedom restriction. This can often start out as seemingly-sweet: a partner wants to spend all their time with you. But it comes from toxic jealousy and a need to control. You are cut off from friends, family, and all other gatherings where the partner isn’t in control. This can entail monitoring your phone, email, and other social media accounts to see who you are talking to.
Without these contacts, you are less safe. You have no one to talk to, and fewer people can see signs of your abuse. This is the form of abuse that allows for all others to grow.
“We’re not going to see your family for Christmas. They don’t like us together, and that’s on them.”
“I don’t want you to have a girl’s night. Didn’t you see them last year? Why won’t you stay in with me?”
“You have to give me your passwords! We’re a couple. Don’t you want me to trust you?”
Intimidation and Verbal Abuse
Intimidation is a way to break your will, your spirit, and your sense of self. Intimidation is a verbal and mental tool that is used by an abuser to establish dominance and to stop questions. It is meant to make you cower and be afraid to speak up or defend yourself. It enables other forms of abuse, but by itself it is a potent and terrible thing.
Intimidation can be not letting you finish a sentence, attacking you for small disagreements, public humiliation, gaslighting, being strict about whose “rules” need to be followed, and even sweet-talking. It is all a way to keep you confused and uncertain.
“I never said I was going to be home early. I never promised that. You’re making it up, you liar.”
“No, you’re not talking, I’M talking! Don’t you dare cut me off. Stop- stop talking. I’m talking now.”
“Don’t you dare tell me to clean up. Who do you think you are? I’ll clean up if I want, not when you tell me.”
Sexual abuse in a relationship is not about sex. It’s not about a mutual fulfilling of needs. It is about violence, intimidation, and control. And it is common- the CDC reports that nearly 1 in 4 women will be sexually abused in a relationship, and nearly half of all domestic violence includes sexual assault.
This can take many forms. There is outright rape, along with other forms of sexual violence (explicitly unwanted grabbing, fondling, etc). There is unwanted exposure to pornography or verbal sexual abuse, often involving lurid accusations of unfaithfulness or past sexual partners. There is also the demand to withhold birth control, in order to force pregnancy and heighten dependence.
“You saw that guy from work, didn’t you, you slut. You had all those old boyfriends, and that’s why you’re no good.”
“If you loved me you wouldn’t demand a condom. I don’t want one, and you shouldn’t either if you loved me.”
“You’re my wife and I can have you when I want. Don’t you dare leave! You’re mine.”
Emotional abuse is tied to verbal abuse, but it has its own components. It is subtle. It comes at odd times, like when things are “good” in a relationship. It keeps the victim off-balance, as they are often blamed by the abuser for what is happening. This form of abuse involves quick emotional swings from happy to angry and sullen, and punishing the victim for trying to be in control.
This abuse also involves gaslighting and isolation, as emotional abuse is more damaging if the victim feels alone. Constant putdowns, belittlement, and quick bursts of anger or sullen withdrawal at small slights can be a form of emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify, but if there is a pattern, and it is in conjunction with other forms of abuse, these behaviors are a clear sign.
“I don’t want to watch that. Why would you want to watch that? Why would you think I would want to watch that, you idiot?”
“Really? You’re taking up knitting? That’s stupid- why do you keep taking up stupid things? You never do anything right, do you?”
“I’m not abusive. I never try to pick fights. It’s you who picks fights. You’re the one always doing things that make me mad.”
The Use of Male Privilege
Male privilege underpins and exacerbates nearly every form of abuse. Some men believe (sadly correctly) not just that they can get away with abuse, but that they are entitled to behave in a certain way because “that’s how men are.” They leverage damaging stereotypes, societal expectations, are propensity for looking the other way, and a system designed to assist the powerful.
This doesn’t have to be the case. This is toxic. It excuses bad behaviors, and perpetuates the cycles for the next generation. Abusive behaviors are not just a man being a man. It’s is a man being a criminal.
At CAWC, we give power back to people who think they don’t have it.
“It’s your fault that I had to force you into sex. I’m a man- I need it.”
“I’m not doing any dishes here. That’s not my job, and if you don’t do them, whatever I do is your fault.”
“You really shouldn’t be working. I don’t like those people you work with. They talk about me. I’m telling you not to work.”
Unwanted Outing in Same-Sex Relationships
While there has been incredible improvement in LGBTQ rights and acceptance, many people in same-sex relationships don’t want family, friends, or places of employment to know their orientation. That is unfortunately very fertile ground for an abuser to establish control.
By threatening to out their partner, an abuser can force someone to stay in a relationship, and use that as leverage in other areas (sexual, financial, etc). It is entrapment, and if someone is threatening to out you if you leave them, that is abuse.
“If you leave me, I’ll tell your parents that you are transitioning. Then what’ll you do?”
“No one beside me actually understands you. I’m the only one who will ever accept you. You have to stay.”
“You’ll get fired if they find out what I know. I don’t want you to get fired, so why don’t you do what I asked?”
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