I Didn't Know
“As it turns out, I’m a very typical domestic abuse victim … Why did I stay? The answer is easy. I didn’t know he was abusing me. Even though he held those loaded guns to my head, pushed me downstairs, threatened to kill our dog, pulled the key out of the car ignition as I drove down the highway, poured coffee grinds on my head as I dressed for a job interview, I never once thought of myself as a battered wife. Instead, I was a very strong woman in love with a deeply troubled man and I was the only person on earth who could help him face his demons.” – Leslie Morgan Steiner
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Too often, women (and men) are in abusive relationships and aren’t aware of it. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just naturally know how a person should treat us…it’s not like an innate response that we were born with. A person has to first be taught they are worthy of love and then they have to be taught what healthy loves looks like. In the absence of these lessons, it becomes very easy to overlook the signs of domestic violence.
Understanding the signs of an abusive relationship are the first steps in making empowering decisions. It becomes easy to overlook those little things. Those little things don’t seem like such a big deal when examined in isolation. But if we put them together, all of the pieces form a very different picture.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but gives you an idea of some things to look for as an indication of an abusive relationship.
controls the accounts and will only give you an allowance
sabotages work and promotion opportunities to include battering before important meetings and interviews
running up large amount of debts and not paying bills
destroying victim’s credit
harsh criticisms and put downs of your looks, intelligence, abilities, and parenting
frequent accusations of you cheating and that you want to leave the relationship
discouraging you from seeing friends or family members; monopolizes your time
threatening and intimidating with violence (with and without a weapon)
threatens to take the children away
stalking and monitoring your phone usage/calls
destroying your property
physically assaulting you (hitting, smacking, punching, throwing you against the wall, biting, shaking, hand around your throat, etc.)
withholding necessities such as medication, food, sleep, medical care
refusing to let you leave the home/room
pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want or to do sexual things you are not comfortable with
refusing to speak to you/withdrawing attention if you don’t have sex when demanded
deliberating starting sex at times that are inconvenient (i.e. frequently making you late to work)
refusing to use protection or sabotaging birth control
forcing or manipulating you to have sex with others
Here are some questions you can ask yourself
-Do I frequently make excuses or try to explain my partner’s behavior to my friends?
-Do I have to frequently check in with my partner to reassure him/her that I am where I said I would be?
-Do I try not to do anything that would upset my partner because my main goal is to try to keep the peace?
-Do I often tell myself that he/she is only acting this way because they are stressed or upset and that things will get better soon?
If any of this looks or sounds familiar, there is help for you. Even if you have not made a decision to leave the relationship, you can still call to get information and find out what resources are available to you.
For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.