Abuse is universal, common, wide-spread and far-reaching in its effect. I would like to believe that all cultures have beliefs, values, sayings and songs about the importance of family. We all learn that home should be a place of comfort, safety and security. Yet for many women, men and children, home is a place of constant pain, abuse and humiliation. Abuse is any behaviour that is used to gain and/or maintain power and control over another person and it is never the fault of the ill-treated individual. Despite this, one of the major impacts of abuse is shame – with most survivors blaming themselves for the mistreatment. It is important to know that domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone. It does not matter how educated/rich/poor/race/age one is, any person can be abused! I am also beginning to think that all people have the potential to be abusive – some of us just choose not to be. Any form of violence and abuse in a relationship is a serious indication that things are not all right.
Examples of behaviours that constitute family abuse and violence include:
- Physical – Pushing, shoving, slapping, punching, choking, pinching, biting, spitting, striking or threatening with weapons, cutting, restraining, burning, pulling hair, withholding medical treatment, depriving of sleep or food. All threats of physical violence should be taken seriously.
- Sexual – any non-consenting (not fully agreed to by both partners) sexual act or behaviour; any unwanted or disrespectful sexual touch, rape (with or without threats of other violence), forced compliance in sexual acts, indecent assaults; and forced viewing of pornography.
- Using coercion and threats– telling the person she/he, the children, pets or property will be hurt or damaged.
- Using intimidation – making a person afraid by using looks, actions or gestures.
- Psychological/emotional/verbal – Yelling, raging, putdowns, sarcasm, blame, threats, silent treatment, forced to do degrading acts, controlling, isolation from family & friends, belittlement, threats of killing self/partner/children. Using words and other strategies to insult, threaten, degrade, abuse or denigrate the individual(s).
- Using children – for example, by making the other parent feel guilty about the children; threatening to take the children away, or to report the partner to Child Protection authorities.
- Using visitation – following separation, to harass the partner, using the children to relay messages.
- Using isolation – controlling what the partner does, who the partner sees and talks to, what she or he reads and where they go.
- Using the court system/legal to instill fear/ harass and control your ex partner
- Economic – controlling and withholding access to family resources such as money and property. Allowing no access to money, running-up bills, withholding financial information, taking &/or belittling your financial contribution, threatening no financial support if you leave.
- Social – insulting you or teasing you in front of other people, keeping you isolated from family and friends, controlling what you do and where you go etc.
- Spiritual – not allowed to have your own opinions about religion, cultural beliefs, and values, or your spirituality is manipulated to keep you feeling powerless.
Some people think that abuse is only physical and this sometimes leads to those impacted not seeking help because there is no hitting involved. However, abuse is about control! It is about how one person uses an intimate relationship to control another person who is often their partner, ex-partner, parent and/or dependent. The controlling behaviour forms a pattern and is not a one-off incident.
Sadly, we all grow up with different messages regarding acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in relationships. We learn most of them from our own homes e.g. my best friend once told me that she knew her boyfriend loved her because he hit her since she witnessed the same thing happening to her mother and older sisters.
Furthermore, the concept that whatever happens in the home should be kept secret (don’t air your dirty laundry outside) encourages people to stay silent for fear of being shunned/judged harshly/not believed/blamed/shamed and fear of the abuse intensifying (retaliation).
I truly believe that no one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the above mentioned warning signs and interpretations of abuse, reach out. It is important for all of us to get educated about developing positive and healthy relationships. This will help create safe and nurturing home environments for us all.
If you’re worried about your own relationship or frightened of someone close to you, please reach out and together we can create a Safety Plan. Call me at 780-607-1795 or send me a confidential email at firstname.lastname@example.org