A different tack this week, readers.
It was Denim Day this week. This is a day where folks wear denim, ripped or fancy, to raise awareness about rape and sexual assault. And over the years, it’s taken on new meaning to raise awareness of those exposed to domestically violent or emotionally abusive relationships
It’s often hard for those in such relationships to know when they’re in such a situation. It may be that such a relationship is all they’ve ever known. It may be that it’s been so long, they’ve lost who they were in an effort to keep their partner happy. Or to keep themselves safe. It is hard for those on the outside to see the whole picture.
A while ago, I came up with a list of signs that a woman was in a relationship, so that they or friends could be aware of warning signs. Here it is…
I might be at risk of abuse if my partner…
- …has a history of growing up in a violent family.
- … has a tendency to use force or violence to solve problems
- … abuses alcohol or drugs.
- … has a poor opinion of himself, often masked by trying to act tough
- … often exhibits jealousy, not only of other men, but also of my friends or family.
- … exhibits hypermasculine behavior- feels he should make all decisions, talks about appropriate roles of men and women, and things women are second-class citizens. He expects me to follow his orders and advice.
- … emotionally abuses me or other women with name-calling, put-downs, humiliation or guilt
- … isolates me by controlling who I see or talk to. He monitors my whereabouts all the time.
- … intimidates me and makes me afraid through looks, anger, actions, or gestures. He destroys property or abuses our pets. He enjoys playing with weapons and threatens me with them.
- … displays “Jekyll and Hyde” behavior, like he is two different people swinging from extremely kind to extremely cruel.
- … uses coercion and threats. I have changed my life, so I don’t make him angry
- … treats me roughly and forces me to do things I don’t want to do.
- … denies his actions, minimizing his abusive behavior or blaming me for behavior.
- … economically abuses me by preventing me from working or controlling all the finances.
- … uses weapons as instruments of power or control. He has a fascination with weapons beyond a reasonable explanation (like hunting or collecting antiques)
- … has battered or stalked previous partners and has a history of police encounters for assault, battery, threats or stalking.
- … inappropriately accelerated our relationship, prematurely discussing marriage or other commitments.
- … refers to alcohol or drugs as an excuse for his behavior.
- … cannot accept rejection, resists change or compromise and is inflexible
- … is not just devoted, he is obsessed with me. He derives much of his identity from being with me.
- … is paranoid and believes others are out to get him. They project strong emotional feelings (anger, jealousy) onto others when there is no reason.
- … refuses to take responsibility for their own actions, and always blames others for problems of their own making
- … is usually moody, sullen or depressed about something.
- … tries to enlist my family and friends in his campaign to keep me with him
- …if my partner creates an intuitive feeling that I am at risk. I fear he may injure or kill me.
More importantly, what do those of us around these women do? How can we help?
On a broad level, the most important thing we can do is believe them. A woman who seeks help is very unlikely to be lying about her situation. In fact, she is probably at one of the most terrifying points in her life. Knowing that she is believed, and is not “crazy”, is vital toward providing support.
It is helpful to be aware that this affects people across all social classes, from the very rich to the very poor. Often those more wealthy have learned to hide it better. To the outside world, they are accomplished and charming, making it hard to believe a woman’s claims. So, believing the woman in the face of what you’re seeing is important.
We can also do our best not to get frustrated when they continue in the same relationship despite our warnings or their own awareness. As hard as her situation may be in a relationship, she may perceive her struggle outside of the relationship to be vastly greater. So, she stays. And this can be hard for others to watch.
Being a stable part of their lives can provide a vital link to the outside world. A rational touchstone. So, as frustrating as it can be to watch, it is important to be available.
Other more practical things can include offers of help. Offers to mind the kids, if she needs to run errands. Offers to store emergency items, should she choose to leave. Offers to shelter her and family if needed.
We can also educate ourselves about women’s rights and advocate for them in our communities. Increasing awareness about risks and what makes up a healthy relationship can help reduce the incidence and the victims of abusive partners.