Updated: Dec 3, 2019
Growing up, I didn’t necessarily have the best example of what a healthy relationship is between couples. I was exposed to environments of where it seemed to be okay of putting your hands on someone else, or to even mentally destroy someone just by a few words. As time moved forward, I finally began to understand what I was exposed to and consequences that came with it.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, despite their age, gender, sexual orientation, and race because it does not target any particular person. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior(s) used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Typical behaviors of a domestic violence relationship include physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation.
It has been identified that women are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse than men are. Approximately 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the US have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner. Out of the women that have experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by a partner, 81% of them reported short and/or long term effects. For male victims, 52.4% reported being raped by an acquaintance, and 15.1% by a stranger. Unfortunately, men and women in domestic abuse relationships are not the only parties hurt. Children are deeply affected by witnessing one of their parents abused by one another. Those who have been exposed to abuse at home have been 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average.
It is not always easy identifying when you or someone you know are in an unhealthy relationship. At times there are warning signs in the beginning of the relationship; yet, red flags emerge over a period of time. Not every domestic relationship is the same, but there are many signs where you can identify when a partner is seeking control over the other. Many of the signs include the following:
Tell you can never do anything right
Show extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
Discourage you from seeing friends and family
Look at you or act in ways that scare you
Prevent you from making your own decisions
Insult or demean you with put-downs
To prevent a relationship from domestic violence, there are many steps that can be taken between partners to establish a healthy environment between one another.
Communicate with one another and discuss any problems to resolve them in an appropriate matter.
Set boundaries with certain situations, like establishing your personal space and when you will need time apart.
Establish respect, honesty, and trust from the very beginning of the relationship.
Emphasize that consent has been given when performing sexual activities, and your partner is comfortable with engaging in those activities.
Victims are often afraid to report the domestic violence that occurs because the predator threatens them by harming their loved ones, causing fear to erupt in their body. While going to the police may or may not be an option, it is important to set up a plan in case the situation gets out of hand, such as packing a bag full of necessities and having backup place to stay.
However, there are many victims who aren’t afraid to share their stories. They believe that by sharing their exposure with domestic abuse, then they will be able to help other victims come forward and share their stories too. Jennifer Gardiner, one of six women who shared their reasons on why they stayed in an abusive relationship with Huffpost, believed that she could love the abuse out of her boyfriend. Prior to starting a relationship with her boyfriend, Jennifer was already exposed to verbal abuse from her first husband, who she shared two kids with. Her relationship progressed quickly with her boyfriend. In response to questioning about his whereabouts, he hit her in the face. This became a repetitive pattern when he would continuously strike her every six months. She believed that by being more romantic, being more good enough for him, would help the abuse decline. Jennifer became pregnant later and thought this would be a wakeup call for him, but his excessive usage of alcohol and drugs caused paranoia to erupt from him. Not only did he abuse her during the pregnancy, but he also exposed Jennifer’s children to this abuse as well in the process. Jennifer’s last straw was when he broke her whole left side of the face and nose. She attempted to escape, but he continuously grabbed, hit, bit, and choked her. Jennifer had been in the ICU for four days and the abuser went to jail for 7 years.
There are many organizations that are dedicated in helping those victimized by domestic violence. A useful resource that can help identify those at risk of being a victim is “thehotline.org,” where they can find information on what domestic violence is and resources on how to help a victim like shelters. This website also provides a number where victims can contact, as well as a live chat. Additionally, for those located in the greater Philadelphia Area, there are organizations, like Women Against Abuse and Women in Transition, who are breaking the cycle of domestic violence. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call 1-800-799-7233 and go on www.thehotline.org for more information on how to break the trend of domestic violence.