When we hear the term ‘domestic violence’ there are many images that come to our mind. The principal one being the stereotypical drunk uneducated man beating his helpless wife as she screams – something we have seen in television and movies again and again. This particular image of domestic violence is what we expect, and that is exactly why so much domestic violence around us goes unnoticed. Domestic violence may be occurring in the places you least aspect, in couples that may seem normal to you otherwise. Real domestic violence awareness requires recognition of the signs of domestic violence and understanding that it comes in many forms.
Types of Domestic Violence
The term violence makes people think that only assaulting someone physically is domestic violence. In reality all of the following are classified as domestic violence:
Physically harming a person – all forms of hitting, choking, stabbing – any violence that focuses on causing pain or injury.
Emotional abuse focuses on criticism, humiliation, and insults designed to destroy the self-worth of an individual.
Sexual Abuse includes rape, sexual assault, as well as any demeaning sexual act that is carried out through coercion or through emotional abuse.
Financial Abuse means controlling someone’s life by controlling their finances. Financial abuse is the hardest to catch. It causes no physical harm, but it makes the other person lose their agency because they cannot make their own decisions.
Psychological abuse means controlling the actions of a person – such as not letting them talk to their friends, controlling where they can go and when, emotional blackmail, and other related acts.
Why the Abused Stay
People who are lucky to never have experienced domestic assault often ask this question – why doesn’t the person being abused leave if the relationship is so toxic? The answer is that they are being abused to the point where they may not realize their own agency. The first part of domestic violence is often making the victim feel that they deserve the abuse and violence. This is achieved through emotional manipulation. The abuse is often followed by a very caring attitude, promises to not repeat the abuse, and reaffirming love. Constant abuse results in the destruction of self-worth of a person, which robs them of the agency to leave the relationship.
Warning signs of domestic abuse
Domestic abuse often starts gradually. It may start with your partner insisting you don’t meet a friend anymore, or them asking why you do things they don’t like, and telling you that they love you too much to let you go too far away. It may start with jealousy, then evolve into controlling behavior. The controlling behavior may be done in a romantic manner at the start. The abuser will slowly start raising expectations, asking the other party to fulfill more and more of their wishes.
The abuser will paint themselves as the victim – telling the real victim that they are forcing their hand. Misogyny is a major sign as well – the abuser may think that women are there to serve him. Note that the opposite can also lead to abuse – the woman believing the man isn’t ‘’man enough’’. The major warning signs are anger in arguments leading to breaking objects around the house or other outbursts of anger. The use of force during sex without getting consent first, even if done in a playful manner, is another major sign.
No one thinks they will be in a relationship where they become victims of domestic violence. We need to spread domestic violence awareness so people can extract themselves from toxic relationships when they see the warning signs. By the time the physical part of the violence starts the victim is often too broken down emotionally to get out.